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Scottish Ensemble, City Halls, Glasgow

I AM not the man to disagree with violinist Jonathan Morton.

He is leader and artistic director of the Scottish Ensemble and, as of last year, leader of the London Sinfonietta. A man of many parts, and all of them influential. If Mr Morton elects to entitle his latest touring programme for the Scottish Ensemble La Follia, which means Madness, then who am I to take issue?

His programme, which reached Glasgow on Saturday night, looked completely bonkers, with its Geminiani Concerto Grosso (the 18th-century equivalent of water torture) a mental harpsichord concerto by Gorecki, after which poor Jan Waterfield's fingers will probably require convalescence, a recklessly democratic Concerto Grosso by Vivaldi which gave everybody in sight except the City Halls staff a solo, and a whizz-bang Violin Concerto by Vaughan Williams (I didn't know old VW could write music that went this fast). Into this goulash of delights Morton poured a brilliant new piece by Martin Suckling that ticked its way into a New Year, while heaving into the brew extrovert and wonderfully sophisticated chunks of Holst and Britten in the forms of the St Paul's Suite and the Simple Symphony. A bouquet? A melange? A casserole? A ghoulash? A mess? No way should this lot have worked.

Somehow, through the force and collective personality of this extraordinary string orchestra, allied to the individual and ensemble virtuosity within the group, it cohered, and was delivered with wit, humour and a wholly engaging personality. A cracking night.


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