It felt like there was a blast of Mediterranean heat coming off the stage in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s afternoon offering. It felt, too, like a showcase for the considerable conducting talents of Alpesh Chauhan, who made his impromptu BBC SSO debut last year standing in for Donald Runnicles. This was the first of his two BBC SSO concerts this season, and on the strength of his determined, demanding, thoroughly entertaining direction, his second, in February, should be another one to savour.
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Alpesh Chauhan ****
City Halls, Glasgow
Chauhan is quite the spectacle, leaning into orchestra sections to draw the responses he wants, fluttering his fingers for trills of decoration, and even semi-toppling on one leg as if his energy has simply overcome him. Of his two breezy overtures – one for each half – his Mendelssohn Ruy Blas was all swashbuckling swagger, while his Rossini Italian Girl in Algiers sparkled with fire and wit, with BBC SSO principal oboe Stella McCracken nimble in its tricky passagework.
In What the Wild Flowers Tell Me, Britten’s chamber arrangement of the second movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony, Chauhan made an almost cubist collage of the music’s unpredictably shifting moods, and his concluding Mendelssohn Italian Symphony found surprising grandeur among its propulsive articulations. There was a cool blast, however, from Britten’s introspective Lachrymae, which could probably have done with a more demonstrative account than French violist Lise Berthaud’s somewhat detached performance.