RSNO and Nicola Benedetti in Concert at The Usher Hall Edinburgh tonight was obviously an event that many people had been waiting for, as extra seating space for the audience behind the orchestra was even in use. The audience was obviously expecting something a little bit special from this performance, and if the applause alone was anything to judge the show by then the RSNO and Nicola Benedetti certainly delivered everything expected of them, and maybe even a little bit more.
RSNO have throughout the year, and particularly this December, a very busy and varied schedule at The Usher Hall, and their constant willingness to deliver not only classical orchestral music, but music that you might not immediately associate with being played by an orchestra has made them one of my favourite musical performers over the last few years. There is also that special experience to listening to their music at a specially built and classical performance space like The Usher Hall; no matter how good the recording on a CD, or even old vinyl records, a live performance like this really is the best way to enjoy the RSNO and the music that they play.
The main performance from RSNO was in the second half of our programme with a lively and passionate interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition” conducted (as the whole evening was) by Christian Rief who was obviously enjoying the many different colours and textures of this work as much as the audience was. For some reason, “Pictures At An Exhibition” does feel in so many parts that it could have been written for our annual festive celebrations.
Adding something very special to the music in our first half performance was the always wonderful to watch and listen to talent of Nicola Benedetti playing violin and making the technically difficult look intuitively easy and effortless. It is always interesting to watch how some international standard soloists like Nicola (no matter what instrument they are playing) can be seen almost disappearing into their own personal space on stage and connecting with something past what most of us can see or hear and becoming a living conduit for the music itself. Watching even the emotional response from Nicola Benedetti when performing Sibelius Violin Concerto is a reminder to us all that music must first and foremost come from the heart of the performer to the heart of the listener at a very basic emotional level. Few musicians have the ability to play music at this emotional level like Nicola Benedetti can.
PROGRAMME OF MUSIC
**Change to advertised programme**
Christian Reif Conductor
Nicola Benedetti Violin
Shostakovich Festive Overture
**Sibelius Violin Concerto** replaces Bartok's Violin Concert No.2
Mussorgsky (orch Ravel) Pictures at an Exhibition
Review by Tom King