• Orchestras and soloists from Scotland and further afield take to the stage of Scotland’s 5-star concert hall bringing summer season to a stunning finale.
• Tickets available at www.usherhall.co.uk
Scotland’s most iconic concert venue, the Usher Hall, has a packed summer of classical music taking audiences to emotional heights of passion, elegance and intense tragedy and making souls soar.
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) rounds off a stand-out season with four stirring concerts before festival madness hits the capital. The first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are some of the best known in the classical cannon, but May 4 brings Edinburgh audiences the chance to hear the rest – and it’s gripping: a no-holds-barred emotional struggle from tragedy to triumph, in some of the most dramatic music ever written. First, though, comes something a bit gentler, as the RSNO’s Principal Flute Katherine Bryan and harpist Pippa Tunnell perform Mozart’s elegant – but deliciously witty – Concerto for Flute and Harp.
On 10 May, the RSNO bring Mahler’s mighty Sixth Symphony to Edinburgh, a piece that imagines a hero destroyed by three devastating blows of fate. But after he’d completed this immense, tragic masterpiece, that’s exactly what happened to Mahler himself. It’s a musical experience that leaves no listener unmoved, so Thomas Søndergård begins with something altogether sunnier: the lovely Piano Concerto No23 by Mahler’s hero Mozart, played by RSNO favourite Ingrid Fliter.
Impatient pianists, practical jokers, and an overenthusiastic bulldog. Elgar dedicated his Enigma Variations to ‘my friends pictured within’, and if all you know of them is Nimrod, then prepare to meet some of the most loveable characters in British music on 17 May as the RSNO is led by Elim Chan. It’s a joyous finale to a musical journey that begins inside the fantastic imagination of Hong Kong-born Fung Lam, and finds violinist Benjamin Beilman deep in the Finnish forests of Sibelius’ hugely popular Violin Concerto.
The summer season sees the final two concerts in the venue’s much-loved Sunday Classics series of concerts. On May 12, the Usher Hall welcomes back YouTube sensation Valentina Lisitsa, a brilliant pianist of the Russian old school who plays with fiery intensity and profound insight, and a musical evangelist who has taken classical music to millions through her online videos. Lisitsa has long adored the romance and power of Rachmaninov, and following her electrifying performance of his Third Piano Concerto at the Usher Hall in 2018, she makes a welcome return with the passionate Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – Rachmaninov at his tenderest, and his wittiest. She’s joined by the remarkable Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city. Considered cultural ambassadors for Siberia, and for the whole of Russia, they are directed by Principal Conductor Thomas Sanderling, himself from an eminent musical lineage.
The final concert of the Sunday Classics season is a very special appearance from the RSNO. The Planets: An HD Odyssey will take audiences on an unforgettable journey to the furthest reaches of the cosmos. From the galvanising military rhythms of Mars to the eerie beauty of Venus; from the majestic power of Jupiter to the mystical visions of Neptune – The Planets is a spectacular tribute to pioneering science, and also a glimpse into the hidden mysteries of astrology, all conveyed in some of Holst’s most evocative music. Combined with real-life, large-screen NASA pictures of the planets’ uncanny natural beauties, it’s an overwhelming experience. Holst’s magical masterpiece is performed by the exceptional musicians of the RSNO, directed by exciting young British conductor Ben Palmer. And before the interval, prepare for lift-off with some of the most dazzling space-themed music ever written.
Sticking with the end of season theme, passion rules in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Season Finale on 9 May! Principal Guest Conductor Emmanuel Krivine brings an abundance of French panache in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique: unrequited love, a ‘Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath’, an intense vision of hell, and a bizarre and fantastic ending. In contrast, Fauré’s Requiem offers gentleness and intimacy, radiant with consolation – gloriously delivered by the sublime SCO Chorus and the soothing baritone of Rudolf Rosen.
And for Edinburgh Opera fans, 21 May sees the esteemed Opera North perform its unique take on Aida. Two countries are at war. Aida secretly loves an enemy general, Radamès, who returns her love. When Radamès is selected to lead a renewed assault against the enemy, Aida is forced to choose between betraying her country and betraying her heart. Verdi reserved some of his finest arias for the doomed lovers such as ‘Celeste Aida’ and ‘O patria mia’. This new concert staging of Aida comprises an international cast and reunites the 2017 Turandot creative team with conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, director Annabel Arden and set and costume designer Joanna Parker.
The Usher Hall, opened in 1914, is Scotland’s only 5 Star concert hall and is well loved by performers and audiences from all over the world because of its magnificent acoustics and atmosphere. It’s the city’s key venue for visiting national and international orchestras and has been the main venue for the Edinburgh International Festival since 1947, hosting legendary artists such as composers Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich, contralto singer Kathleen Ferrier and cellist Jacqueline Du Pre to name but a few.