Sunday Classics: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Pinchas Zukerman at The Usher Hall Edinburgh obviously ticked many a music lover’s preference box with this outstanding afternoon performance of music from Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Beethoven. The Usher Hall Sunday Classics are a well-established part of the concert hall’s programme, but this one with a combination of the RPO and Pinchas Zukerman conducting and performing was a special event that comes around all too rarely these days – the chance to see and hear one of the classic orchestras in the U.K. performing with one of the great figures in the contemporary classical world. Irrespective of what your own personal preferences in music are, experiencing the connection that a very special musician like Pinchas Zukerman has not only with his chosen instrument, the violin, but music itself is something special.
Opening our performances this afternoon was Vaughan Williams’ wonderful Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, a musical wonderland where folksong and ancient sacred music blend and twist with one another in beautiful musical harmony and expression.
Following on from Vaughan Williams was the ever intriguing and much loved Enigma Variations by Elgar. Here the cryptic puzzle lover Elgar taunts musicologists down the years with his clues as to who musical portraits of his friends and family are. Some clues are obvious, some more obscure and devious in their nature, and some still remain the subject of heated debate amongst music fans world-wide. Like a good magician, Elgar was never going to give away all his secrets here. Whatever the enigma he is painting with music, the result is a stunning fusion of styles, tempos, colours and feeling, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted Pinchas Zukerman (as with the Vaughan Williams music) bringing the music to life as is only really possible in a classic concert hall space like The Usher Hall.
Two fine musical woks performed, but probably for many people, the main event was the last event with Pinchas Zukerman not only conducting the RPO, but performing himself Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with a performance that clearly demonstrates that at this level there is a connection between performer, instrument and the music that is taking place at some space beyond what is written down. For some reason, many people too often associate Beethoven with heavy and darker music, but this work, although still having some of those elements, is full of wonderful lightness and humour and in the hands of someone like Pinchas Zukerman, full of joy and passion, particularly in the wonderful folk dance inspired finale. Simply a joy to listen to, and a joy to see that, even after a lifetime in music, playing this music still brings so much pleasure to Pinchas Zukerman, a pleasure that he also so obviously enjoys sharing with his audience.
Review by Tom King