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Review: Celtic Connections

BBC SSO/Simcock/Clowes

BBC SSO/Simcock/Clowes

City Hall, Glasgow

ALTHOUGH only slightly less busy than Julie Fowlis at this year's Celtic Connections, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra had just this one concert at its home venue, and it was as much a Radio 3 Live event as a festival one.

The work of the living composers (and soloists) - both born in the 1980s and BBC New Generation Artists past and present - was presented in the context of compositions by Milhaud, Bernstein and Gershwin that all used jazz compositional techniques, playing and colours in an orchestral context, although Milhaud's ballet score asks only for a chamber ensemble.

It was the least familiar of the older compositions, but it was competing with dance music from On The Town and Gershwin's sublime Lullaby. This was a highlight of the night, thanks to saxophonist Trish Clowes, whose tenor soloing made one wonder exactly how much it had in common with Larry Adler's harmonica Edinburgh Festival premiere of the piece with string quartet, 20 years before she was born.

Her own style recalled the even earlier tones of Lester Young, which made it a fascinating follow-on from her own soprano excursion in tribute to her hero Wayne Shorter, Wayne's Waltz, its triple time a challenge to anyone wishing to trip the light fantastic. Her main orchestral composition, Sketch, having its live premiere, seemed well-named and her description of its organic sculptural creation suggested that was intended. Pianist Gwilym Simcock's two pieces, by contrast, sounded overwrought, Cumbrian Thaw having some foursquare writing for strings after the improvised opening, and the three-movement Move! lacking a coherence of structure to match the fine passages of writing for the orchestra.

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