Review of Final Concert with SCO and Nicola Benedetti
By Garry Fraser
"So, it was farewell to another great Perth Festival and what a way to end the 10 days, on the highest of high notes."
Three important boxes have to be ticked by festival organisers. The correct performers, the correct setting and, perhaps most importantly, the correct music. I reckon all boxes were ticked in bold with regard to the Perth Festival’s final concert. Nicola Benedetti and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (tick), Perth’s fabulous concert hall (tick) and Mendelssohn and Mozart (tick). Total enjoyment? Another tick.
I’ve yet to be disappointed by a Perth Festival closing night, and I only wish I had been there, live, to see it. Still, the online streaming with excellent audio and visual content was the next best thing.
Normally, symphony follows concerto but it made sense for the evening’s main event – Nicola and the Mendelssohn violin concerto – to draw the festival to a close. But the SCO with Mozart’s symphony no 33 was no inconsequential prelude. Instead, it was the perfect appetiser. A bright and sunny opening movement, a graceful andante, a short but lively menuetto and effervescent finale meant another box ticked, that of musical perfection. And I mean from both composer and orchestra, directed by Benjamin Marquise Gilmour. The SCO and music of the classical era is one of music’s great combinations, and when they’re on their game they are hard to beat.
Speaking of great combinations, Nicola Benedetti goes hand in hand with any concerto from Vivaldi to Szymanowski. Nicola’s reacquaintance with the Mendelssohn recently was the reunion of two old friends and this get-together led to a wonderful performance of real classic. Nicola’s superb tone shone out in the middle movement but it’s the dazzling virtuosic side of her that we know and love. The outer movements gave her plenty of opportunity to display her amazing skills, vis the opening movement cadenza and the finale which burst with vim and vigour. She’s always an accomplished performer but I don’t think I’ve ever heard her play so well.
There was a bonus on the bill, when Nicola and the SCO were joined by violist Nicholas Bootiman in Sally Beamish’s arrangement of Farewell to Stromness. Quite stunning in performance and staging as the orchestra left the stage one by one.
So, it was farewell to another great Perth Festival and what a way to end the 10 days, on the highest of high notes. That’s what the festival organisers wanted and that’s exactly what they got.