Edinburgh’s 75th International Festival has opened, with a glorious Opening Concert at the Usher Hall. Sir Donald Runnicles conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Festival Chorus, and the NYCOS Girls Choir in a lively invigorating two part programme – Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome and the ever popular Carl Orff favourite Carmina Burana.
Pines of Rome was unknown to me, and a complete delight to get to know. It is a four part evocation of some memories and moods of Rome as witnessed by the ancient trees that dominate the Roman landscape. The Pines of the Villa Borghese has the vigorous repetitive motif of a children’s game, lively, scattered. The mood suddenly changes to Pines Near a Catacomb, sombre, deep, mournful, with hymn like resonance. We are then tremulously transported to the Pines of the Janiculum where a mood of stillness is softly evoked and a nightingale sings ( a recording introduced to the orchestra). The Pines of the Appian Way then end the piece on a blaze of triumphant trumpets as the armies of yore march confidently towards the glories of Ancient Rome.
Part two brought the Festival Chorus and the NYCOS Girls Choir on stage for Carmina Burana. They duly raised the Usher Hall roof to O Fortuna. It was good to have the text as surtitles giving us the full development of this most theatrical ode to nature, enjoyment, lust and love.
The soloists were Meechot Marrero, Thomas Lehman – flirtatious in their very racy paeans to love – and Sunnyboy Dlada as the swan who reminds us in strangulated falsetto that happiness and beauty will end in misery and death. The soloists and the two choirs were superb.
An excellent start to the 75th Festival. There’s life in the old dog yet.