I'm not that much of a man for Baroque music: I love it, but in small doses. Anyway, through last week I was listening to a new recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, to my mind one (or six, if you prefer) of the greatest pieces of music ever written: massively infectious, exhilarating music, and among the most direct and accessible music ever penned. The new recording, incidentally, is by the Dunedin Consort, led by director and harpsichordist John Butt, is available on Linn Records, and will be reviewed in the CD slot in tomorrow's Sunday Herald.
Then last weekend the Baroque exposure continued as the RSNO played Bach's Third and Fourth Orchestral Suites in the orchestra's annual pair of concerts in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Now Kelvingrove is not the ideal place in which to play or hear this music.
The gallery is a massive space, one which is colossally reverberant. I don't actually know what the reverberation time is in that space, but it must be in the order of five, six or seven seconds at least, which makes absolute mincemeat of a fast-moving, busy orchestral texture. The sounds rapidly accrue and congeal into a kind of fog through which absolutely nothing in the texture can be heard with any clarity.
What you could hear however, albeit vaguely, was the fact that something very interesting has been going on in the RSNO in terms of the orchestra's Baroque playing. It was a sense of style, and appropriateness of style that, a decade ago, would have been unthinkable.
Clearly, the driving, dominant presence of leader James Clark has much to do with this, though there might be other factors (masterclasses with specialists such as Rachel Podger, for instance).
But here's the big challenge for the orchestra: get it out of the "extra" concerts and seed some of it into the main-scale winter season, in the Royal Concert Hall and Usher Hall. Food for thought?