Saturday’s Scottish Inspirations was powerful evidence that Thomas Dusgaard is now settling into his role as BBC SSO principal conductor.
This exploratory programme featured the Scottish premieres of Helen Grime’s Snow (one of her two musical responses to paintings by artist Joan Eardley) and Peter Maxwell Davies’ Symphony No9; and the world premieres of Sally Beamish’s piano concerto Cauldron of the Speckled Seas and the confident Fèin-Aithne by young New Cumnock composer Jay Capperauld.
BBC SSO: Scottish Inspirations ****
City Halls, Glasgow
Grimes’ short work proved a compelling synthesis of frenetic busyness and needle-sharp definition, its wildness warmly checked by languid swathes of folk melody.
Beamish’s concerto, written in memory of her late violinist mother, took us on a more subliminal journey, the ethereal soundscape of its opening bars, an unfolding play on a three-note theme, effecting a crystalline transparency, softened by impressionistic brushstrokes. Echoes of Bartok haunt its powerful evolving arched structure. Pianist Martin Roscoe’s soulful performance, trenchant when needed, recognised the soloist’s integrated role.
Capperauld’s new work hit us like a thunderbolt: youthful vigour combined with quirky originality (one subconscious reference, perhaps, to fellow Cumnockian, James MacMillan’s Isobel Gowdie) and a natural feel for the big orchestral palette.
Dausgaard’s conviction brought set-edge responsiveness from an energised SSO; especially in Max’s penultimate symphony, which positions a belligerent off-stage brass sextet in Ives-like opposition. The softer edges characterising his final works is alluringly prominent, but the acerbic old Max – the mischievous parodist – lurks with a purposeful smile.