PRIZE-winning young American conductor James Feddeck has appeared with some of the top orchestras of the world, including the RSNO last year, but I am sure as many of the very full house on Thursday evening were there to hear soloist James Ehnes, who had been a regular visitor to Scotland since he charmed Orkney’s St Magnus Festival many years ago now.

From the point of view of Scotland’s experience of him, this was a fascinating concert during which he was on imperious form for the Britten Violin Concerto, which the composer tinkered with throughout his life after its New York premiere in 1940. It was preceded by Samuel Barber’s contemporaneous Second Essay for Orchestra – and Ehnes memorably performed Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra over a decade ago. The two works are interesting companion pieces, for the debt both owe to Russian composers earlier in the 20th century, and in the idiosyncratic use of certain instruments, particularly brass and clarinets in the Barber and tuba and piccolos in the Britten. It was also a treat to hear the unmistakable tone of Stella McCracken’s oboe in the concerto.

The box office success of the programme, however, was surely down to the presence of Gustav Holst’s Planets suite in the second half, and the orchestra’s guests stole the show there as well. Chorus-master Andrew Nunn’s Royal Scottish Conservatoire-derived Les Sirenes provided the off-stage chorus of the mystical Neptune at the conclusion of the work from the first floor foyer, fading out as if they were strolling off down Candleriggs, and were rightly cheered to the rafters for their contribution. It is the final detail in a work full that is also full of captivating orchestral detail, which Feddeck brought out with fine attention. As in the Britten, however, his tempi sometimes seemed a little laboured in the effort. Old age comes more quickly than Saturn did here – and, to paraphrase G K Chesterton, perhaps Nunn’s angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.

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