Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City Halls, Glasgow

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra
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Kristian Bezuidenhout’s Mozart recordings on fortepiano are distinctive and inspired. They represent a style of period instrument performance combining the spirit of the music’s original conception - it’s inner beauty, natural energy and spirit of the age - with a contemporary vitality and relevance to modern ears.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City Halls, Glasgow ***

Bezuidenhout’s focus last week, as director and soloist with the SCO, was again Mozart, the difference being his choice of a modern Steinway for the concerto works. In contrast to the aforementioned recordings, I found this strangely unconvincing.

But let’s start with all that was good. The programme opened with two symphonies: one of which - CPE Bach’s bubbly Symphony No 2 in B flat - established the steely intimacy that was to permeate the entire evening; the other - Mozart’s brilliant coming-of-age Symphony No 29 - elicited an iridescence reflective of its audacious originality and expressive range.

Directing initially from a barely-audible harpsichord, Bezuidenhout homed in on the beauty of the musical phrase, shaping each sentence, each paragraph, with instinctive poeticism. The spritely Bach performance drew fuel from its natural, sunny countenance; the more expansive Mozart danced to a succession of scintillating moods.

When it came to the C minor Piano Concerto, K491, Bezuidenhout’s hold on the SCO seemed to slacken as he concentrated on his solo role. Tone production was often wooly and uneven, melodic tautness sagging mid-phrase. Synchronisation with the band occasionally faltered. The single-movement Rondo in A Major, almost a built-in encore, proved more incisive, more the vintage Bezuidenhout. - Kenneth Walton