The SCO & SCO Cho­rus Usher Hall, Ed­in­burgh

The Scotsman - - Reviews - SU­SAN NICKALLS

The Sea­sons is of­ten over­looked in favour of Haydn’s ear­lier ora­to­rio, The Creation. This could be due to part to Baron Got­tfried van Swi­eten’s idio­syn­cratic li­bretto. Tak­ing the epic pas­toral poem The Sea­sons by Scot James Thom­son, van Swi­eten trans­poses the ac­tion to Ger­many, tones down the Scot­tish dour­ness and adds some hunt­ing and spin­ning scenes for good mea­sure. But if you for­get about the words there’s an abun­dance of mu­si­cal riches here, as demon­strated by Maxim Emelyany­chev, the SCO’S prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor des­ig­nate step­ping in for an in­dis­posed Bernard Labadie.

With their valve­less brass in­stru­ments and crack­ing tim­pani, the orches­tra were in fine fet­tle as they con­jured all man­ner of moods, weather, an­i­mals and even bag­pipes with the­atri­cal dy­namism. In Spring, we were in­tro­duced to the peas­ant char­ac­ters sung by so­prano Lucy Crowe (Han­nah), tenor An­drew Sta­ples (Lu­cas) and bass bari­tone Neal Davies (Si­mon) with the SCO cho­rus as the coun­try peo­ple. Un­der their direc­tor Gre­gory Bat­sleer, the cho­rus have never sounded bet­ter.

In Sum­mer, the high­lights were the ex­quis­ite ca­vatina from Sta­ples fol­lowed by Crowe’s rav­ish­ing de­liv­ery of a recita­tive and aria backed by breathy tremolo strings and the oboe’s shep­herd’s pipe. Their touch­ing duet to­gether in Au­tumn was a pre­lude to a feisty hunt­ing cho­rus while Davies in­toned bleak weather fore­casts in Win­ter.

This high-oc­tane per­for­mance was a tour de force, full of char­ac­ter and finely nu­anced de­tails, mak­ing a con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment for this un­usual ora­to­rio to get more fre­quent air­ings.

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