Classical review: Scottish Ensemble: Night & Day

Scottish Ensemble. Picture: Contributed

Scottish Ensemble. Picture: Contributed

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NEVER ones to content themselves with traditional seasonal fare, those enterprising folks at the Scottish Ensemble plumped for a Night and Day theme for their festive candlelit offering this year.

Scottish Ensemble: Night & Day

Wellington Church, Glasgow
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And while the flickering flames and the cosy interior of Glasgow’s Wellington Church proved the ideal – and appropriately soporific – setting for the programme’s night-themed music, the bright, sharp harmonies and propulsive dance rhythms of Steve Martland’s captivating Eternity’s Sunrise (which was getting a welcome reprise – the SE had commissioned it back in 2007) seemed to fight against them. Maybe that was the point. In any case, the players were in their element among Martland’s crisp, brittle textures, playing with passionate conviction and infectious enthusiasm – even if artistic director Jonathan Morton had his work cut out counting and cueing Martland’s unpredictable syncopations.

Mozart’s night-time serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik had opened the concert, and despite the music’s fame, Morton directed it as if discovering the work afresh. Continuing the nocturnal theme, the Ensemble had commissioned composer David Matthews to make string arrangements of two Chopin nocturnes. The results were a revelation – supple and gently flowing, they found new perspectives on the piano originals, turning the opening of Op. 55 No 1, for example, into a touching, almost gypsy-tinged duet between Morton and principal second violin Tristan Gurney.

To close the concert, Borodin’s Sinfonia for Strings (an ensemble arrangement of his Second String Quartet) didn’t seem particularly night- or day-related, but with the simple beauty of the music allowed to shine so unforcedly, that didn’t matter at all.

Seen on 11.12.04

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