St Magnus International Festival 2015
The SCO have just returned from their residency at St Magnus International Festival on Orkney. The Orchestra performed two programmes with young Spanish conductor Antonio Méndez – the first on Friday 19 June, featuring Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with Catherine Backhouse, Thomas Walker and Andrew Foster-Williams starring as soloists. Also on the programme was our own Principal Horn Alec Frank-Gemmill playing Mozart’s Third Horn Concerto and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony.
Ken Walton from the Scotsman was there, commenting:
“The Mendelssohn had a rare and vivacious sparkle, fast but not furious, and with a clarity that made every moment precious. Similarly, the Stravinsky was thoroughly refreshing, the three singers each adding their distinctive fresh colourings to the SCO's sleek interpretation..."
The next day, Glasgow-born conductor Gordon Bragg directed the Orchestra in a side-by-side project with Orkney Camerata and Orkney Schools’ Strings. The SCO Strings were desk partners with the local players for this performance, celebrating the sound of strings and featuring Eddie McGuire’s work Ring of Strings, which represents ideas of stone circles with reels, jigs and airs.
The St Magnus International Festival is always a unique experience for SCO players and one which they look forward to. Each player is hosted by a local resident while they are there and many have made good friends with their hosts, visiting them each year and socialising together. Players also often make time to travel round Orkney when they’re not in rehearsals – see here our bass player Adrian Bornet and viola player Kath Jourdan with participants of the conducting course at Ring of Brodgar, a spectacular Neolithic stone circle.
The Orchestra’s second concert with Antonio Méndez featured the Orkney premiere of Peter Maxwell-Davies’ recent work Ebb of Winter and also featuring the St Magnus Festival Chorus who were out in full force.
On Monday 22 June the Orchestra played for the young conductors who took up the baton on the Festival’s Conductors Course, allowing them to get a taste of what it’s like to direct the SCO. We imagine it must have been quite an experience! On Tuesday 23 June, the SCO Wind Soloists rounded off the SCO residency at the Festival with their second concert, which included Dove’s beautiful work Figures in the Garden and Beethoven’s virtuosic Octet. Playing in the beautiful setting of Kirkwall’s St Magnus Cathedral, it was a perfect way to finish the tour!