Tectonics: BBC SSO Concert 2 - City Halls, Glasgow
BBC SSO/Richard Youngs - Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
Following computerised musical goofiness from Icelandic composer collective S.L.Á.T.U.R. and the choral maelstrom of James Weeks’s Radical Road filling every corner of City Halls, the festival’s final traditional(-ish) orchestral concert ended up as a more focused, subdued affair. In exceptionally fine performances under festival director Ilan Volkov, two pieces by English pioneer Michael Finnissy brought his intensely lyrical, unpredictable sound world into sharp perspective. His Favourite Poets was a poignant collage of half-remembered themes that seemed about to break into Elgar at his most fulsome, and it brought together the fiercely committed chamber choir Exaudi with a small but fluent ensemble from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, while Finnissy’s evocative orchestral Offshore teemed with life and detail.
Elsewhere, Scottish composer James Clapperton’s powerful Tomnaverie, based on an Aboyne fiddle melody, got a sensitive world premiere, and The Thin Tree by Austrian composer Klaus Lang (another world premiere, and a BBC commission) was exquisitely scored but ultimately rather opaque.
It wasn’t quite the BBC SSO’s last contribution to the weekend, though, as they fragmented to the edges of the Old Fruitmarket for the world premiere of Past Fragments of Distant Confrontation by the uncategorisable Glasgow-based musician Richard Youngs – his first orchestral work. Based on obscure punk sub-genre D-beat, it had the strings scrubbing furiously at hypnotic rhythms while the brass brayed chords from the balconies, and Youngs himself improvised a spiky electric guitar solo on stage.
Hardly the subtlest of offerings, it nevertheless has something to say and wasted no time in saying it – and it brought what had been a rich and sometimes bewildering weekend to a gloriously tumultuous conclusion.
Seen on 11.05.14