It’s the strangest thing to watch a conductor act out choreographed directions in front of an orchestra, only to find that much of it fails to connect with the musicians. There were so many such moments in this BBC SSO concert on Friday under Birmingham-born Alpesh Chauhan, the ultimate outcome of which was to make the majority of the evening sound ordinarily routine.
BBC SSO & Alpesh Chauhan **
Eden Court, Inverness
Most of these were in the second half, a simple pairing of Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture and Dvorak’s Symphony No 8. The former, with its dramatic juxtaposition of grand chordal gestures and frantic fugal interjections, seemed to operate with nervous caution.
The Dvorak, with its quixotic Bohemian charm and ripe bursts of energy, appeared constrained by Chauhan’s blanket overprescription and occasional forced tempi changes. He should just have let it run as nature intended it.
How different this was from Malcolm Arnold’s Clarinet Concerto No 2, written in the 1960s for Benny Goodman, and consequently driven by a jazz influence that progressively dominates, reaching its zenith in the wild ragtime of the Finale.
It inspired a riveting performance from clarinettist and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, Annelien Van Wauwe. She flirted mesmerisingly with the first movement cadenza, cast a languid moodiness over the central rhapsodic Lento, before unleashing a riotous impetuosity in the hip-swaying finale.
The concert opened with Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No 10, one of twelve written effectively as pedagogic exercises. It ticked over
nicely, but lacked a touch of magic.