Written by Fiona Maddocks
Published on Sunday 22 February 2015
Built around a dozen string players, the Scottish Ensemble is a byword for vigorous music-making, combining the prowess of solo playing with the discipline of small-scale ensemble. Here they find connections and departure points in one Russian and one Soviet work. Their performance of Tchaikovsky’s smiling Serenade for Strings Op 48 zips along with grace and fluency except, appropriately, in the pensive Larghetto elegiaco third movement. The group’s director, Jonathan Morton, has arranged Shostakovich’s expansive, folk-inspired Second String Quartet (1944) for string orchestra. The Overture takes on a full-blooded rustic energy while the Waltz nods back at Tchaikovsky, but now in dark, macabre mode. The Scottish Ensemble’s crystal-clear playing is a joy.