Classical review: BBC SSO: Panufnik 1, Glasgow

At City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
At City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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THERE’S something amusing about hearing a classical work performed live, when it has a whole other life in popular culture.

BBC SSO: Panufnik 1

City Halls, Glasgow

Star rating: ***

So, although he could never have predicted it, Mozart’s divertimento A Musical Joke – aka the theme from the Horse of the Year Show – was aptly titled.

That aside, tonight was a wall-to-wall celebration of 20th century Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik – a man unlikely to find himself far up Classic FM’s Hall of Fame. Not because he wasn’t a gifted creator, but because finding the right emotional reaction to his work is a constant challenge.

Asked by Yehudi Menuhin to write a violin concerto in 1971, Panufnik responded with a strangely atmospheric piece, that bewitches from beginning to end. Performed by guest violinist, Alexander Sitkovetsky the work is filled with slow, menacing violin plucks, which build in intensity underneath the melody. If Hitchcock had made a European art house film, this would have been the soundtrack.

Written in 1947, after Panufnik had spent World War Two in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, Lullaby offers little in the way of bedtime comfort. A sweet, jewellery box-esque tune struggles to escape, overlaid with slow, threatening strings that would induce nightmares not dreams – but in a good way.

Composed for two distinct string orchestras, seated on opposite sides of the stage, with tiny woodwind and brass sections sandwiched inbetween, Sinfonia Rustica gave us some superb trumpet playing by Mark O’Keeffe, and another set of darkly delicious surprises.