Richard Long has observed that the best and safest way to cross Dartmoor is to walk in a straight line, but in the city things are rarely so simple. Long’s important exhibition at The National Gallery of Modern Art was postponed to another day, and I shall postpone it to a review of its own, while I follow our ramblings southwards towards the Old City, seeking out addresses my friend had given me. As sophisticated and rational as Edinburgh may be, at least the New Town, certain prospects encourage one to think of it as a city of the earth. It is mostly built of stone, after all, as neatly chiselled as it may be. As you turn the corner around the façade of the new Parliament, Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, appears ready to swallow it up...or is that only wishful thinking? The classical structures on Calton Hill, stone-built as they are, only draw attention to the chthonic presence of the eminence on which they stand. (Like Rome, Edinburgh has seven hills: Calton Hill, Castle Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hills, Blackford Hill, Arthur’s Seat.) This theme, moreover, had its way of cropping up, not only in Richard Long, but in other exhibitions as well.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1974, has enjoyed a world reputation for some time now for the work they have achieved over the years under Sir Charles Mackerras, who still conducts the orchestra on occasion. And they are anything if not versatile, playing a repertory spanning the Baroque and the contemporary. Saturday evening they were in their Classical mode, playing Haydn and Beethoven with a slightly relaxed compliment of original instruments (i.e. cellos on pins and metal flute alongside gut strings, natural horn and trumpet, etc.) under the direction of the brilliant Swiss conductor, Thierry Fischer. The evening was a splendid success, full of imaginative insights and intense music-making. The orchestra and singers seemed to enjoy it as much as the audience, a special distinction for Mr. Fischer, who conducts without a baton, using vigorous, occasionally extravagant gestures, which never failed to bring the musicians together in committed playing and tight ensemble.