Classical concert review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra - City Halls, Glasgow

FOR the second consecutive night a Scottish orchestra was being broadcast live on Radio 3 from Glasgow’s City Halls. But this one began rather bizarrely, with announcer Mary Ann Kennedy saying very little about what was actually about to happen, and wittering on instead about a crazy day at the BBC, which we must assume was Children in Need.

Then off she tottered, leaving everyone sitting bemused in stony silence. The lack of the usual pre-concert buzz must have killed the notion of “live” for radio listeners, and certainly made conductor Robin Ticciati’s eventual entrance something of a tension-breaker.

Did that account for the apparent shakiness in the initial bars of Gluck’s fascinating overture to Alceste? Was Ticciati deliberately aiming to fudge the opening string phrase, or was there an air of nervous uncertainty about it? It was unconvincing, and it returned once again when the same theme did. But otherwise Ticciati and the SCO nailed Gluck’s gorgeous sonorities, particularly the ending, which sinks into breathtaking repose.

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No such issues with Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été, which suited the burnished tone of mezzo soprano Karin Gargill to a T. These are ruminative songs, tinged with suppressed ecstasy. Supported by the liberated palate of Berlioz’s imaginative instrumentation, every moment was fresh, rich in emotion and intensely beautiful.

Nice touches, too, from the SCO in Schumann’s Second Symphony, played here with elegance, and fired by vitality, delicacy and unfussy clarity.

Rating: ****