Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City Halls, Glasgow

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra
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When the Scottish Chamber Orchestra goes properly chamber – minus a bona-fide conductor, per se – magic happens. And so it was with a programme directed variously from the leader’s chair by its former occupant, violinist Alexander Janiczek, or from the piano by guest soloist Piotr Anderszewski. In either case, their practical involvement engendered an intimacy and spontaneous interaction among the huddled players that were a constant fascination.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City Halls, Glasgow ****

Anderszewski masterminded two keyboard concertos: Haydn’s chirpy Concerto in D, written with all the nimble delicacy befitting its intended execution on fortepiano or harpsichord; and the sweeping Romantic brushstrokes of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor.

While the Haydn danced to the spirit of the style, there was always a suspicion in Anderszewski’s delivery that a modern Steinway was not the most streamlined vehicle for the journey. Much as he flirted playfully with the solo-tutti discourse, there was something slightly overcooked about the wholesome piano timbre that effected a cuckoo-in-the-nest effect.

Not so the Schumann, its rhapsodic suppleness liberated by the SCO’s instinctive response. The interplay was ravishing, Schumann’s rich melodic lines and metric crosscurrents all the more intoxicating with plentiful space to breathe. Equally fascinating were those impromptu moments when sections of the orchestra seized the initiative for themselves, such as the searing cellos in the central Intermezzo.

Janizcek’s moment in the spotlight rested with the concert opener, Mozart’s “Linz” Symphony. There was majestic poise and spirited élan in this coruscating performance. Teamwork at its creative best. Ken Walton