With so many symphony orchestras and chamber groups around one wonders why Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music is apparently treading on toes with a much enlarged band and muscling in on the romantic repertoire. Weber and Mendelssohn hardly seem to be baroque orchestra candidates, although this famed ensemble is now commissioning works from contemporary composers.

The glowing star of the evening was soprano Alwyn Mellor, performing at short notice for an indisposed soloist. Her depiction of lovesick Agatha from Weber's Der Freisch?tz was a joy, the mezzo range dark with a beauty of seemingly effortless control in the demanding phrasing.

Alwyn Mellor's voice filled Symphony Hall effortlessly, her diction and commitment

such that there seemed little need for translations.

More romanticism from Mendelssohn in the shape of his violin concerto. Soloist Giuliano Carmignola seemed somewhat twitchy and distracted however, and gave not of his best. This disappointing performance lacked good intonation, the dreamlike slow movement becoming a nightmare of soulless plodding. A delicate filigree finale was marginally more settled, but the underlying feelings of panic only truly vanished as the music drew to a close.

Curious overall lack of clarity dogged tutti passages in Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony, occasionally causing poor balance, particularly in strings. Basses and bassoons were indistinct or inaudible, but five natural horns were a delight especially with woodwinds in light, airy passages. Forte tutti chords were frequently sharp, but on the whole we had an exhilarating trip to the Highlands.

Maggie Cotton