Mozart: Overture, The Impresario; Mozart: Violin Concerto no. 2, K211; Haydn: Symphony No. 103, The 'Drumroll'

Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Janiczek (leader and violin)

St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, 18 February 2011 5 stars

JaniczekThe SCO instituted their CL@SIX series in a bid to reach audiences not so much new as supplementary. These concerts start as rush hour is winding down, and last a little over an hour, so that people can fit a concert in between leaving work and arriving home. Or failing that, people can still be home in time for dinner even if they weren't at work in the first place.

By its nature, it is an ephemeral enterprise. Unlike other SCO programmes, this one takes place solely in Edinburgh. Being bite-sized in duration, there isn't the normal opportunity for interval chit-chat and reflection; there seems to be a connection between that dynamic and the choice of repertoire, which seems to be judiciously selected so as not to require the extended conversations to parse.

Accordingly, these shows receive little media attention—certainly if a quick archive search of the local newspaper, The Scotsman, is anything to go by. The balance sheet shows a healthy audience and by inference a satisfied audience, and maybe that conversation is the only one that matters. After all, while the format might be relatively ephemeral, there is no compromise in the standard of performance.

Indeed, Alexander Janiczek is always a welcome sight on the SCO's platform. Whenever he joins the ensemble as guest leader (having held the post full-time earlier in his career) there is a palpable surge of energy as his large and generous sound prompts a response from those around him. It is not a strident or aggressive tone—hearty might be a good word for it, a geniality that suits the Haydn particularly well.

Not that the Mozart is not full of vivacious bonhomie. Although the concerto is a relatively youthful work, composed when Mozart was around 19, his signature is already well-formed with the result that he turns modest means – little more than a pair of oboes and horns augmenting the strings – into a sparkling essay.

Haydn's 'drumroll' symphony is altogether better known, although it is not so often that one hears it directed from the front desk (of course this would have been the normal way in Haydn's day). Accordingly, this performance foregrounded something that is becoming a familiar hallmark with the SCO, a quite distinctive rapport between the individual musicians that lays as much stress on the 'chamber' part of their name as the 'orchestra'. It puts one in mind of the domesticity of Haydn's Esterhazy years (albeit on the grand scale), where he mastered the craft that served him so well in London; where orchestral life and the business of the estate were tightly enmeshed.

Whether it is the tumbling rhythmic drive of the opening, the variations on the faux-grudging sigh in the second movement, the missteps in the minuet, or the relatively straightforward finale, the drumroll symphony is a continuing delight, and when one steps back into the early evening, it is with a definite spring in one's step.

By Peter Cudmore

Photo: Alexander Janiczek


maxwell daviesRelated articles:

Concert Review: The SCO under Ticciati in Brahms, Mahler, and Henze
Concert Review: Robin Ticciati leads the SCO in Ligeti
Concert Review: The RSNO in Britten's War Requiem

Join the debate: if you have any comments on this or any of our articles, visit our forum