Thursday, October 22, 2020

City Halls, Glasgow

It’s twenty-five years since Mark Elder last conducted the BBC Scottish. His return for this without-audience/-interval concert opened with J. S. Bach’s First Brandenburg Concerto – relaxed tempos, the musicians, save for cellist and harpsichordist, standing, those on woodwind duties (a pair of horns, three oboes, single bassoon) placed in front of the small string group – an intimately-interacted, lightly-articulated, account with song and dance at its core: anyone seeking brazen timbres and madcap tempos would have been disorientated.

Jump forward a couple of centuries to Stravinsky’s Danses concertantes (1942), concert music with a Baroque backbone and neoclassical economy that was soon being choreographed, first by Balanchine, a score that needs quick-witted playing to deal with tricky rhythms, securely realised here by a SSO now seated conventionally if socially-distanced. Lyrical episodes were expressively turned, and the whole – parading a range of characters (some comic) and moods – made for good listening.

Scroll back a brace of decades for (Austrian) Franz Schreker’s Chamber Symphony (1916). Selective the participants may be – one each of the main woodwind and brass, eleven strings, harp, celesta, timpani, percussion, piano and harmonium – but a rich palette of colour is created with music that is voluptuous and poetic as well as inhabiting a sense of theatre, also playful and delicate, pictures painted all the while through continuous invention that embraces Richard Strauss and Alban Berg, and reminds at times of Webern’s (early, not catalogued) Im Sommerwind. Lasting here for just shy of half-an-hour, Mark Elder left in no doubt as to his belief in Schreker’s piece, the BBCSSO members reciprocating with finesse and generosity.