Classical review: BBC SSO/Martin Roscoe, Ayr

Intimacy and charm embraced by the young conductor, Andrew Gourlay. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Intimacy and charm embraced by the young conductor, Andrew Gourlay. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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Mozart, Bruch and Tchaikovsky: a conglomerate of popular composers. But the refreshing aspect of this programme, bar Tchaikovsky’s familiar Pathétique Symphony, were two rarely heard pieces by Mozart and Bruch.

BBC SSO/Martin Roscoe - Ayr town hall

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What’s more, both the early G major Symphony by the ten-year-old Mozart and Bruch’s Concerto for clarinet, viola and orchestra were of a scale and mood suited to the compact size of Ayr Town Hall.

Their intimacy and charm were warmly embraced by the young conductor, Andrew Gourlay. With the emphasis on the strings, the ensemble was warm, lively and vibrant, the acoustics a perfect vehicle for the SSO players to fully bloom, fired by a lithesome precision conducive to the natural tunefulness and Mozart’s youthful craftsmanship. But Gourlay’s tendency to micro-conduct – why so many silent beats to open movements when these professionals can instantly pick up a tempo? – resulted in cumbersome starts, but in most cases, and largely instigated by the players themselves, settled into a comfortable groove.

SSO principals Scott Dickinson (viola) and Yann Ghiro (clarinet) took centre stage for the Bruch, a work (and performance) every bit as mellifluous and melodious as the more famous Violin Concerto, to some extent even copying its memorable opening flourish, but with a distinctive, conversational beauty of its own.

Did Gourlay manage to tame the beast that is Tchaikovsky’s trenchant Sixth Symphony? It lacked that critical sense of the inexorable, and he allowed the brass to blow our heads off.

Seen on 7.2.14