Music

BBC SSO

City Halls, Glasgow

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Keith Bruce, five stars

WHATEVER the personal or political reasons that led Michael Tippett to suppress his early B flat symphony, it seems to be accepted that the musical one was the huge debt it owes to Jean Sibelius, who had fallen from favour by the years after the Second World War. Hearing it in a revision now 80 years old, effectively a world premiere of that version, and unheard in any form since the 1930s, it certainly does often sound very like Sibelius, although at times it also recalls Wagner and even Brahms. What it does not sound like very much is Michael Tippett, as we know his four symphonies.

Nonetheless it well deserves rediscovery as the young composer had no shortage of melodic ideas and plenty skill in deploying instrumental colour. With solo clarinet both beginning the piece and signalling changes of direction later, it is curious how the rhythmic tension in the middle of the finale is resolved in what is really quite an old fashioned way, while the last two pages of the score sound quite uncharacteristically English.

In some ways it did the work no favours that Martyn Brabbins conducted it in a programme that culminated in Stravinsky’s Petrushka, a work that – performed as well as it was here – will always sound exciting in any context. In the composer’s post Second War version the common elements of the pre-First War original with The Rite of Spring are unmistakeable, for all that it is lighter in tone. No-one in the large orchestra gets to sit on their hands, but pianist Lynda Cochrane and principal trumpet Mark O’Keeffe put in particularly sterling work.

In between it was the chance for principal horn Alberto Menendez Escribano to shine on Mozart’s Fourth Horn Concerto. The tone and flow of his playing had exactly the balance of virtuosity and feel for ensemble that the composer surely intended – this is a work from the years that produced The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. In a nice bit of programming, the concerto’s famous last movement was followed by a scripted encore of a stand-alone Rondo for the same forces which only underlined the operatic comparisons as well as the hunting-horn origins of the instrument.