The Scotsman: Italy and the Four Seasons Concert Tour:

Ken Walton

Saturday 19 September 2015

NICOLA Benedetti’s latest round-Britain tour – Italy & The Four Seasons – opened on Thursday in Perth. If the capacity audience were after quantity, they got it in spades – wall-to-wall Vivaldi in an extensive first half, and a pairing of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s specially written Duetti d’amore and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence to round off a mammoth three-hour concert.

That’s not to question the quality, which was plentiful from Benedetti, her fellow front-liner Leonard Elschenbroich (cellist and boyfriend), and their top-level accompanying ensemble. Especially so in the second half, where a string sextet, led by Benedetti, found in Tchaikovsky’s ravishing score an abundance of colour and expressive warmth; while she and Elschenbroich elicited a natural complicity in Turnage’s five-piece duo suite, which explores, with imaginative ranges in character, and through that familiar Turnage co-existence of mischief and nostalgia, the many sides of the typical human relationship.

But there was a sense of “first night” in this programme, with occasional hiatuses in stage management, and a sense, halfway through, that we had truly overdosed on Vivaldi. Did we really need the opening Il Grosso Mogul concerto as an appetiser to all The Four Seasons, especially as the surprise pre-interval addition was the delightful guest appearance by the well-drilled Kilgraston School string ensemble playing yet another Vivaldi concerto?

Benedetti’s Four Seasons interpretations were nonetheless intriguing: teasingly wistful one minute, electrifying and explosive the next – a personal spin on an old Venetian favourite. It will bed in, I’m sure, as the 11-concert tour progresses.