For a cold night, this was a programme guaranteed to introduce some warmth. Not always obviously so, as in John Maxwell Geddes’ Ombre, the shadowy textures of which live up to its title, but which in conductor Andrew Manze’s sensitive hands last night, also elicited darting, fiery sparks of heat.
BBC SSO: Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto
City Halls, Glasgow
Star rating: * * *
It paved the way for the hottest moment of the evening: a performance by the exceptional young Scots guitarist Sean Shibe of Rodrigo’s thoroughly Spanish-flavoured Concierto de Aranjuez. Here in the City Halls – as well as live on Radio 3 – was ample proof that the praise accorded to 20-year-old Shibe is justified.
He has a zest for his instrument that ignited the very opening of this performance – those vivacious chords lit with explosive panache, and the ensuing passage work negotiated with impressive ease and incision. The alluring sultry theme of the slow movement bore the warmest of glows, revealing an artistry well above the ordinary.
For the most part, Manze mobilised the same spirited, rhythmic thrust from the BBC SSO, but not every nuance of Shibe’s was picked up timeously by the conductor, leaving some of Rodrigo’s bold synchronised attacks less convincing.
One thing Manze often does well, though, is to introduce strange but intriguing quirks to his programming. In an all-Mozart second half he prefaced the “Jupiter” Symphony with his own eerily translucent arrangement of an “Adagio” the composer wrote for the glass harmonica. The symphony, itself, had a strangely deconstructed aura, Manze at pains to over-define its constituent twists and turns. The detail was extraordinary, but the overall effect was of periodic overindulgence.