Gig review: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

Conductor Matthias Pintscher drew lustrous detail from the performance

Conductor Matthias Pintscher drew lustrous detail from the performance

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When it comes to hearing a challenging new work for the first time, especially music that pushes big time the frontiers of convention, it helps to have a point of reference.

BBC SSO | Rating: **** | City Halls, Glasgow

Catalonian composer Joan Magrané Figuera’s “….secreta desolación…” certainly benefitted, in Saturday’s UK premiere by the BBC SSO, from being prefaced without interruption by the Prelude from Wagner’s Parsifal, on which it is based.

On its own, Figuera’s music has an undoubted charm and delicacy, its three continuous movements opening as if Wagner’s lingering theme had been cast into outer space, only to dissolve in ultra-slow motion. Conductor Matthias Pintscher drew lustrous detail from a performance whose only let-down was some iffy woodwind tuning.

Wagner’s reference point remained a distant subliminal presence as Pinscher brought two other UK premieres to our notice: Sciarrino’s Libro notturno delle voice for flute and orchestra, its highly original textures - all manner of theatrical breathy effects from flautist Matteo Cesari, and an orchestral canvass that was like a zoological menagerie; and the heaving sonic mass that characterises Jay Schwartz’s Delta - Music for Orchestra IV.

The latter is extraordinary for its mutating density of sound.

Finally, the more familiar music of Helmut Lachenmann served as a more physical, attitudinal finale to the evening. Tableau thrives on its brusque outbursts and jangling, unnerving textures. This wasn’t the tightest of performances, but it rounded off an intriguing evening of discovery.

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