Comedy? I thought we were here for Beethoven...,Edinburgh Festival, Various venues

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The Independent Culture

Concerto Italiano's intimate re-imagining of a Venetian Vespers using psalms from Monteverdi's Selve Morale drew a sizeable audience to the Usher Hall on Monday. Rinaldo Alessandrini has a cavalier approach to musicology - applying a double-bass to the propulsive continuo lines of Beatus Vir and Dixit Dominus - but taken on its own terms, this charming liturgical confection worked. Violinists Mauro Lopes and Riccardo Minasi were simply sensational, the singers lean and bright of blend.

Accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, Christopher Maltman gave a charismatic mid-morning performance of Schubert's lurid scena Die Bürgschaft: the first of a grisly succession of tabloid lieder, including Schumann's splatter-song Die Löwenbraut. Subtly shaped, expertly controlled and dictation-perfect, this was a recital in which every nuance carried to the back of the hall. Lovely as they were, the floral tributes of Strauss's Efeu and Wasserrose were unnecessary after the poised rapture of Mahler's Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen: a song that deserves to be the last in any recital.

Funnier by far than Burstein's sixth-form satire was the Eroica Symphony as played by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio under Vladimir Fedoseyev. As if to debunk the notion that all Russian orchestras play with unbroken legato, this one littered the Eroica with more fricatives, glottals and sibillances than a hundred Alan Rickmans. It was good that they chose one of Beethoven's best known works. Had they played König Stephan, say, it would be hard to identify the period, much less the composer. The woodwind, heard fleetingly, had a surprisingly seductive sound. (Had they been kidnapped from another orchestra?) Their bars were small oases of clarity: little reminders that this was indeed Beethoven and not some penny-ante pupil of Prokofiev. The post-interval snippets from War and Peace and the 1812 Overture were similarly undisciplined.