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Seen and Heard Festival Preview


Edinburgh International Festival 2006

The Edinburgh International Festival is a total package - it is difficult to go there just for the classical music and not be drawn into the general buzz and excitement of Edinburgh’s vibrant atmosphere. For three exciting weeks (18th August to 3rd September this year) the Festival and its Fringe concentrates aspects of all the performing arts across a city where a myriad number of venues are often within walking distance.


For Seen and Heard however, what is probably most important is the opportunity to immerse oneself in listening to live music performed by some of the world’s greatest performers. This year it will be possible to attend five Festival events in a day if you have the stamina, by attending the Bank of Scotland Queen’s Hall Series chamber concerts (11am Monday to Saturday) in the mornings,  the main evening Usher Hall concerts and a new series - the Lloyds TSB Scotland Concerts which offers three concerts a night, three nights a week, all an hour long and focusing on single composers at the outstandingly realistic cost of £10 each.

There will be something at Edinburgh for everyone and I will not be presume to select particular concerts as being special but instead will just indicate the range of music and performers involved. The Festival opens with a concert performance of Strauss’s Elektra with Edward Gardner (ENO’s new musical director) conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Sun 13 August). Other opera highlights include a concert performance of Rossini’s La donna del lago with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Maurizio Benini) and for the year of Mozart at the Festival Theatre there are staged performances of Die Zauberflöte with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado (31 August & 2 September). Sir Brian McMaster, who stands down in September after fifteen years as Festival Director, presumably chose a concert performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg personally, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Robertson and with Robert Holl as Hans Sachs, to bring down the curtain on his successful Festival tenure (2 September).

Usher Hall concerts include András Schiff playing Beethoven sonatas, Donald Runnicles conducting the Orchestra of St Luke’s and the pianist Richard Goode, in Adams and Mozart, the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester conducted by Philippe Jordan with mezzo soprano Susan Graham (Webern, Berg and Mahler) and Schumann’s Manfred played by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ilan Volkov.


In the same series the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Richard Goode conducted by Iván Fischer, have concerts on three consecutive nights presenting  Brahms First Piano Concerto (22.8), Bartoks' Romanian Dances and 3rd Piano Concerto and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (23.8) and also the rarely performed Strauss ballet score Josephslegende (24.5) The Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä appear with pianist Llyr Williams the following evening to play Barber's First Essay, the 3rd Beethoven Piano Concerto and Petrushka. Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker with Frank Peter Zimmermann and Lisa Milne, provide a 'must hear' concert for many on August 31st with Szymanowski's First Violin Concerto and Mahler's Fourth Symphony.


A couple of recitals in the Usher Hall may also be of interest - Ian Bostridge with Antonio Pappano at the piano, perform Wolf and Schubert and Richard Goode's solo piano recital includes works by Bach, Schoenberg, Brahms and Schubert.

Those Lloyds TSB Scotland Concerts (at 5.30pm, 7.30pm and 9.30pm) offer a rare opportunity to hear not only all of Beethoven’s symphonies but also nine by Bruckner. If you attend them horizontally so to speak, it could be possible to take in all the Beethoven or Bruckner or masterworks from Mahler, Bach, Strauss and Vaughan Williams. Vertically, you could choose a Beethoven symphony, a Masterwork and then to cap it off a Bruckner Symphony in one evening.

In the intimate Queen’s Hall atmosphere you can hear, amongst others, recitals by pianist Steven Osborne, flautist Emily Beynon, Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski, the Arcanto Quartet, the Trio Wanderer, young pianist David Fung, and the Scottish Ensemble (with mezzo soprano Jane Irwin and tenor Andrew Kennedy). Other performers include tenor Jonas Kaufmann, bass baritone Robert Holl, baritone Simon Keenlyside, sopranos Angela Denoke, and Anne Schwanewilms, cellist Pieter Wispelway and the Belcea Quartet (with oboist Stefan Schilli). A large choice is available for the recital connoisseur.


Finally (if you like this sort of thing) the grand finale (3rd September) is the spectacular Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert, with fireworks set off from Edinburgh Castle choreographed to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra playing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet conducted by Garry Walker in Princes Street Gardens.

Public Booking opened for the Festival on 8 April 2006 and for ticket information please contact Hub Tickets (Tel 0131 473 2000) or try online at www.eif.co.uk

For those interested in Edinburgh Fringe events, web site



Jim Pritchard




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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)