Review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Alma & Gustav Mahler with Karen Cargill

Another memorable evening with the SCO, conducted by Kensho Watanabe, who stood in at short notice for the indisposed Mark Wrigglesworth and guided this well-chosen programme with flair and authority.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 10:55 am
Karen Cargill

Usher Hall, Lothian Road

* * * *

It began with a stirring account of Mozart's overture to Idomeneo, the perfect start to a concert devoted to half a dozen of Alma Mahler's songs and her husband's Symphony No 4.

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She, a femme fatale at the turn of the century Vienna, was every bit as committed a musician as her first husband (she received scant support from Gustav, who declared he had married a wife not a colleague, but he did arrange for some of these early songs to be published).

They were given a lustrous performance by the wonderful mezzo soprano Karen Cargill, fresh from her triumphant tour of five German cities with the RSNO.

She needed no introduction to Edinburgh audiences and this evening they responded with affectionate enthusiasm to her beautifully sung, reflective selection of Alma Mahler's moving lieder.

The second half displayed the full orchestra at the height of its powers in a powerful performance of Mahler's Fourth Symphony, which made its unsuccessful premiere a month before he and Alma were engaged seem plausible only in the light of an ant-semitic Munich.

Karen Cargill returned for the last movement of this masterpiece to round off an enthralling evening that was a tribute to her musicality and the skills of Kensho as he displayed the virtuosity that clearly impressed the orchestra and a responsive audience.