Music review: SCO & Andrew Manze, City Halls, Glasgow

Andrew Manze’s enthusiasm for music by lesser-known British composers rubbed off on the SCO, writes Ken Walton

Andrew Manze PIC:  Chris Christodoulou
Andrew Manze PIC: Chris Christodoulou

SCO & Andrew Manze, City Halls, Glasgow ****

Andrew Manze’s SCO programme bore a workaday title – A Very British Adventure – but what an adventure it was. “Who’s heard of Grace Williams?”, Manze asked us. Very few. Born in Barry in 1906, and following studies with Vaughan Williams and Egon Wellesz, she settled on the Welsh coast, writing such locally-inspired gems as the Sea Sketches of 1944.

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Manze’s infectious enthusiasm – his added concert commentaries are always interesting and entertaining – brushed off on the SCO, whose rich-scented performances revealed music that criss-crossed so many prevailing influences – an intriguing marriage of modal English and progressive Viennese – ultimately drenching themselves in the powerful, multi-faceted sea imagery of these five evocative pieces.

Anna Clyne’s The Years is more inward looking, written as a response to lockdown isolation and premiered here as part of her role as SCO associate composer. It involved the SCO Chorus, whose articulation of Stephanie Fleischmann’s text benefitted from Clyne’s pleasingly consonant vocal scoring as a gravitational counterweight to the freer complexities given to the orchestra.

Undoubted star of the second half was violist Timothy Ridout, whose performance of Britten’s Lachrymae, mercurial yet autumnally intoxicating, was strengthened by prefacing it with Manze’s own arrangement of the Dowland song, “If my complaints could passions move”, on which the Britten is based. Rather than wait for the song to openly reveal itself at the end of the Britten, its immediate echoes drew out the subtler references we often miss at the start.

Ridout remained on stage for his leading role in Vaughan Williams’ Flos Campi, a celebratory nod to the 150th anniversary celebrations of the composer’s birth.