Classical review: SCO: Generations of Bach, Glasgow

John Butt’s programme with the SCO was a chronological trip from the robust stylised Baroque of JS Bach to the mature classical symmetry of Mozart, by way of Bach’s lesser-known first-born Wilhelm Friedemann (WF) and more commonly-aired second-born son, Carl Philipp Emanuel (CPE), both of whom represent different facets of that period of stylistic turmoil intervening the two major classified periods.

At the City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
At the City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

SCO: Generations of Bach | Rating *** | City Halls, Glasgow

Butt started his journey (from the harpsichord) conducting Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 4, a cocktail of mainly dance movements typical of its time, magically enlivened by Bach’s insatiable inventiveness and the signature thrill factor achieved by his scoring for three high-stepping trumpets.

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This performance took time to fire on all cylinders, the Ouverture slightly weighty in delivery, almost old-fashioned in its lack of risk-taking. But by the Gavotte and Menuetts, the Butt/SCO partnership was loosening up, and by the final lustrous Réjouissance, that spontaneous combustion Butt finds in his own Dunedin Consort was beginning to unleash.

WF Bach’s Sinfonia in D minor – a somewhat textbook adagio and fugue – was every bit a reflection of the composer’s reputed obsession with maths. CPE’s Concerto in A minor, on the other hand – played here on bassoon by the SCO’s intrepid Peter Whelan – was awash with dazzling eccentricity and unpredictability, lit up on this occasion by some gloriously impetuous playing.

Mozart’s Symphony No 40 took us back to familiar territory, Butt discovering moments of crisp textural clarity in an otherwise safe, untroubled delivery