This was the first time I’d heard the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra play on home-turf at the City Halls in Glasgow. It didn’t disappoint.
City Halls’s brilliant acoustic amplified the band’s fine string playing and also highlighted a demanding night for the brass in what was a long but nonetheless value for money gig – it was around about 10.00pm by the time we exited auditorium.
Siblelius’ writing in the tone poem The Wood Nymph (1894) has some spectacular moments. A rich, complex orchestration of multi-layered melodies which build to successive climaxes, at one point quickly followed by an exquisitely tranquil movement of the kind you didn’t realise you needed but were damn glad had arrived. Sibelius effortlessly broadcasts hope and positivity with a pin sharp brilliance kind of writing for brass and high strings. Everything must have shimmered and glinted in the composer’s life, or maybe that’s what he hoped. It’s infectious.
Just a shame that every now and again I was brought crashing into moments of reality when the same rhythmic figure which forms the opening melody of the Karelia Suite reminded me of painful school band rehearsals when junior orchestra would plough their way through the music with all manner of recorders, keyboards and whatever brass instruments could be found. Sometimes there should be a global ban on some music, just to save ourselves.
Trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger took to the stage with a near-perfect performance of Haydn’s trumpet concerto. And whilst I wasn’t absolutely convinced about whether or not Birtwistle’s Endless Parade was more of an exercise than true brilliance, Bartok’s lush string writing in his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta rounded off the evening on an unexpected high.
The concert is being broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at some point. No one knows exactly when however.