If the Scottish play has had its auld problems elsewhere (RSC and National Theatre), Scottish Opera, a company on the up, had bad luck last week when its opening night of a new Ariadne auf Naxos was cancelled because of a fire nearby – a disappointment for all. I hope to catch this co-production with Opera Holland Park later. The one positive was a chance instead to hear the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor Thomas Dausgaard on home territory . Their bracing reading of Nielsen’s percussive, war-inspired Symphony No 5 (1922), showed empathy as well as despair. In contrast Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, with Martin Fröst, balletic and virtuosic, as soloist, glimpsed heaven.
The quality of musical life north of the border was on display again the following night, when Robin Ticciati gave his farewell concert after a decade as principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. As well as being music director at Glyndebourne, he’s now chief conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. He’ll be back with them at the Edinburgh international festival conducting Brahms’s four symphonies, just released on CD and original and impressive too.
After Bach’s Orchestra Suite No 4 in D, lithe and transparent, Maximiliano Martín was a fine soloist in Copland’s sweet-sour jazzy Clarinet Concerto. Martín is the SCO’s own clarinet section principal, just one of this orchestra’s high-quality woodwind players. (With perfect timing they too have released their own disc, Beethoven: Music for Wind.)
This farewell programme may have looked mainstream on paper but proved revelatory where least expected, in Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony No 9, a work so mauled by overplay and brown bread ads I’d quite happily, I thought, never want to hear it again. We can all be wrong, and how. Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra injected zest and sparkle, with brilliant ensemble, characterful solos and, in every detail, breathtaking finesse. The cheers went on and on. New worlds indeed.