On paper, this Scottish Chamber Orchestra programme was a little lacking in meat. Apart from Rossini’s overture, The Italian Girl in Algiers, the ensuing cocktail of Respighi and Mendelssohn leaned towards the lightweight, which possibly explained the thin audience for Friday’s Glasgow performance.
SCO & Daniele Rustioni, City Halls, Glasgow ****
That said, there were musical delights aplenty. On the podium was the young principal conductor of Opéra National de Lyon Daniele Rustioni. His was an instantly vibrant presence, a chipper energy that elicited meticulous precision and sizzling clarity in the Rossini. He found new things to say by drawing out unexpected layers of texture, be it a fleetingly emphasised viola line or simply a spontaneous shift in dynamic extremes. In the wake of that, Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite I, acted as a moment of soft-spun respite, its romanticised recasting of the music of the Renaissance and Baroque like viewing the past through a misted lens. Rustioni once again injected respectable life into the performance.
But it took the front stage presence of clarinettists Maximiliano Martin and William Stafford to reset the opening temperature. With Stafford on basset horn, theirs was a sparkling duo performance with their orchestral colleagues of Mendelssohn’s two Concert Pieces. There was spontaneous theatre and undeniable virtuosity in a performance that revelled in rippling passagework and rhetorical dialogue. In relation to that, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 1 failed to click. Not because of the performance, which was lithesome and crisp - it’s simply not one of Mendelssohn’s most inspiring pieces. - Ken Walton