Classical review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Ilan Volkov. Picture: Contributed
Ilan Volkov. Picture: Contributed
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EVEN the BBC’s shiny digital technology couldn’t prevent the electronic glitches that resulted in a couple of false starts to Saturday evening’s New Icelandic Voices concert at City Halls.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Star rating: * * *

Eventually, conductor Ilan Volkov stepped in to announce his sensible decision to postpone Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson’s Sporgýla until the second half. When it did appear, Gunnarsson’s reinterpretation of the old Icelandic parliament involved six separate ensembles, spread out through the auditorium, each huddled round a screen displaying their parts. In jittery conversation, there were plink plonks of comments from strings, wailing winds in response, but, overall, it was an imaginative concept and one in which the composer was particularly well served by the BBC SSO’s consummate musicians who tackle whatever is put in front of them with skill and integrity.

Of the other five contemporary pieces from Reykjavík and the far north, perhaps it is unsurprising that there is an overriding sense of sparse bleakness. It all tended to be slow moving, often to the point of being almost static, with a quiet sotto voce character that lent itself well to Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s Aeriality, a floaty piece of “sound-art.”

Solo cellist Séverine Ballon made her BBC SSO debut with David Brynjar Franzson’s on Matter and Materiality, a cleverly conceived study reflecting the work’s title, but with a score that under-played the rest of the orchestra, resulting in a threadbare texture and, ironically, a cello section which seemed to have more bars rest than ones with notes to play.

Seen on 04.10.14