SCHUBERT’S well-loved “Unfinished” Symphony was no doubt the big draw for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s afternoon concert under young Dresden-born conductor Christoph König. But it was another piece entirely – and, dare it be said, the concert’s wild card – that proved the real roof-raiser.
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Christoph König | Rating: **** | City Halls, Glasgow
Hindemith’s Symphonic metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber hardly has the catchiest title, but it’s a wild, witty showpiece all the same, and König’s gutsy, good-natured performance of it sent energy radiating off the platform. He was particularly impressive in driving hard the endlessly inventive reappearances of the second movement’s nagging earworm of a tune, sent round and round the orchestra in a Young Person’s Guide-style laying out of the band’s constituent sections. And the BBC SSO had real sparkle and swagger to their technicolour performance, never played for laughs but constantly comical nonetheless.
After that, Schubert’s “Unfinished” felt quite tame, although König summoned a thoroughly lyrical, warm first movement, driven with powerful momentum, even if his slow second movement felt like it could have done with some stronger character. It didn’t help that his slow, graceful beat seemed almost impossible to follow at times.
König’s concert opener – the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz – took a bit of time to warm up, although the all-important horns were suitably sonorous. But he ended with more smiles, this time from Liszt’s madcap Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, again swaggering but gloriously sincere, and with magnificent – and wonderfully idiomatic – solos from trumpeter Hedley Benson and the Orchestra’s leader Laura Samuel.