Music review: BBC SSO: 80th Birthday Concert

BBC SSO at the City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

BBC SSO at the City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

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The BBC SSO celebrated its 80th birthday on Thursday, with a concert that surprisingly understated the moment. It just seemed like a normal day at the office for the orchestra.

BBC SSO: 80th Birthday Concert

City Halls, Glasgow

****

But for the SSO, normal is generally a good thing, and under the direction of composer/conductor Matthias Pintscher, this lengthy programme of Mozart, Mahler and the UK premiere of his own Idyll was a living reminder of the SSO’s strengths.

Take the precision and care that went into teasing out the super-sensitivity of Idyll, an intoxicatingly quiet homage to a late friend of the composer and based on an earlier piano piece Pintscher wrote for that friend’s 80th birthday.

Its sparsity of texture – often slithers of breathy sound against brief snatches of solo virtuosity – required acute discipline, which the band responded to magically.

Such luminescent transparency paved the way for Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, a colossal concert finale, and a performance that was both crystalline and robust, evoking effusive lustre from tenor Andrew Staples and earthy gravitas from last-minute replacement contralto Anna Larsson.

But not before the sensation of the night, oboist François Leleux’s dazzling account of Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, fuelled by unbelievable dexterity, mind-blowing sound, eye-catching stage characterisation, and a liquid clarity echoed by exuberant string playing, and pinpoint accuracy from the horns.

There had to be an encore. It was more Mozart: Monostatos’s wishful seduction aria from The Magic Flute, delivered by Leleux as if the oboe’s upper range was limitless. An unforgettable experience.

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