SCO/ Mozart & Mendelssohn

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

It may come under the banner of chamber music, but a coupling of Mozart’s probing G minor String Quintet K516 and Mendelssohn’s youthfully exuberant Octet represents something altogether more massive in physical stature and emotional heft. So it’s hardly surprising that this latest programme in the SCO’s digital Chamber Music Series proved not only one of the lengthiest, but also the most exhaustive and exhilarating to date. 

In the first of these, Mozart takes us through the wringer with music that strives to reconcile troublesome thoughts, that expresses its journey through a fragmentary healing process and a final shift to the major key that is as much about transformative release as triumphant consummation.
And this performance, led compellingly and demonstratively by lead violinist Maria Wloszczowska, knew exactly where it was taking us and how it would get there. The sighing phrases of the opening Allegro, articulated with raw vibrato-less poignancy, tugged gnawingly at the heartstrings. With the Menuetto came a deeper agitation before the muted Adagio, no less troubled, but offering rays of hope as it edged towards the transformative discourse of the closing Allegro.

If the meaty ensemble mix in the Mozart was a thrill in itself, it was soon to expand to the eightsome forces of the Mendelssohn. Written – as second violinist Gordon Bragg reminded us in his programme introduction – when Mendelssohn was but a lad, it’s a work of uncanny maturity fired by the spontaneous ferocity of youth, an incendiary combination articulated with tantalising vitality in this performance.

Knowing gestures, friendly smiles and all-out teamwork were the outward signs of a corporate internalised instinct. Where dazzling, detailed interplay made much of work’s dizzying intricacies – just occasionally edging over the safety limit – there was ample symphonic fullness when the moment demanded. It’s a work we hear time and time again, but just sometimes, like this, you sit up and take fresh notice.  
Ken Walton