Classical review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Glasgow City Halls

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IT’S fascinating to watch someone so steeped in contemporary musical thought direct a beefy programme of German Romanticism.

As artist-in-association of the BBC SSO, that’s exactly what composer/conductor Matthias Pintscher did on Thursday, revealing many fresh and perceptive thoughts on three Teutonic stalwarts: Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.

What defined every one of these performances was a clean, clinical attention to textural detail, but never at the expense of expansive phrasing and a sense of the molten Romantic spirit.

Mendelssohn’s overture The Fair Melusine bubbled with liquid purity of a mountain spring; Schumann’s Cello Concerto won its colours through theatricality delivery and the effervescent coupling of Andreas Brantelid’s light-fingered solo performance and Pintscher’s nimble control of the orchestral accompaniment. Brantelid’s playing was in a class of its own, not least in the unaccompanied encore that followed the Schumann.

There was more than just Brahms’ Third Symphony in the second half, for this was part of a broader scheme by the SSO to commission new works intended as homages to each of Brahms’ symphonies.

Pintscher’s Ex Nihilo had, by his own admission, little in common with the Third Symphony, though its elemental containment and whispered subtleties hinted at a shared serene quality.

The SSO’s crystalline delivery fed its delicate gestures with a nuclear frisson – minimum scale, maximum impact. In turn, the Brahms was tight-knit but effusive.

Rating: ****