Review: Edinburgh Festival Fireworks

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It was a day of glorious sunshine, so you could have got 7-2 at Bet Fred that drops of rain would appear less than an hour before the Virgin Money Fireworks.

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The spectacular view above Edinburgh. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

The spectacular view above Edinburgh. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

And so the thousands who thronged Prince Street Gardens once again resembled the tented village at T in the Park, apart from the age gap.

But like the best Festivals, nobody minded the ominous weather, the long toilet queues or the sluggish IT system which made getting past the outer-rim security its usual chore.

Fortunately, the clouds kept high enough not to spoil the traditional blow-out which brings down the curtain on the International Festival, and the crowd was treated to the chest-thumping excess of musical pyrotechnics, excessive colour and controlled violence it has come to demand.

As befits a Festival dedicated to conflict, this year it was classical music’s version of the Fireworks, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which brought the whole shooting match to a close.

It’s never been quite the same since Charlie Drake, but it’s the one piece of classical music at which the public expects the kitchen sink to be thrown. And no-one left Princes Street Gardens disappointed last night as tonne after tonne of incendiaries lit up the Edinburgh skyline as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra gave it everything they had.

The Fireworks is the International Festival’s few concessions to populism, so it was fitting that Sir Jonathan Mills’ last extravaganza in charge should open with one of the most best-known classical numbers, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.

As expected the artillery let rip with a display as perfectly choreographed with the orchestra as has been seen for many years. Then again, if fireworks professionals can’t get it together for Wagner they might as well pack up.

The SCO was never going to be able to supply the fire-power demanded of a piece written for an orchestra three times the size of Bavaria, but the barrage above was more than enough compensation.

Sometimes at this concert it seems as if the touch-papers are being lit at random but only in one number, Mendelssohn’s War March of the Priests, did the pyrotechnics not have much of a thing going with the music below.

As befitting a wonderful summer, the rain wasn’t enough to stop the cascades setting fire to the Castle Rock. You always know when it’s been a great Festival season when the hill goes up in smoke.