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Virgin Money Fireworks Concert

Ross Theatre and Princes Street Gardens
Five stars

Edinburgh International Festival may have been celebrating its 70th anniversary with a bang this year, but it ended with a first, as the Fireworks Concert preceded its grand finale with a curtain-raiser that threatened to upstage it. Focusing on traditional Scottish folk music, the first half began with a quartet of rousing widescreen dances by Malcolm Arnold. Played with a brio and lightness of touch by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as conducted by Clark Rundell, the infectious bounce and lush romance of the tunes wouldn't have sounded out of place in a panoramic western.

The appearance of Capercaillie vocalist Karen Matheson was similarly inspiring, as she performed a version of At the Heart of it All, the Sorley MacLean inspired title song from the band's thirtieth anniversary album. The orchestral arrangement by band co-founder Donald Shaw added depth and breadth to the composition, as it did to the Gaelic waulking song, Cha Teid Mor, before a moving rendition of the late SCO cellist Kevin McCrae's rendition of Ae Fond Kiss closed the half.

The fireworks themselves provided by Pyrovision were kicked into life by the martial drama and night sky choreography of James Macmillan's Stomp (with Fate and Elvira). The harp of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty conjured up clusters of magic night-flies criss-crossing each other before erupting into slow-motion cascades of light. For the finale, Peter Maxwell Davies' An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise galloped its way through a rowdy, woozy and at times comical evocation of communal excess. Piped on its way by Robert Jordan's glorious denouement, such an explosion of sound and light was the perfect conclusion to three spectacular weeks.

The Herald, August 29th 2017

ends

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