Davies's own Strathclyde Concerto no. 7 -- the one for double bass -- in
the same programme; but with Duncan McTier as soloist, and with John
Steer (himself a distinguished bassist) as conductor, it was clear that
the concerto, at any rate, would be in able, sympathetic, and thoroughly
On the cello-like beauty of tone that McTier brought to the opening
bars was a reminder that Davies's is not just another jocular concerto
for an ungainly instrument, nor that McTier is just another bassist. In
a performance that notably avoided the grumpiness and grotesquerie of so
much music of its kind he made an eloquent case for the bass as a
lyrical instrument, declaiming the finale's arching cadenza and the last
long dying note as if they were Elgar.
But the spectral side of the instrument -- which one would expect
Davies to dwell upon -- was duly exploited in the echo effects between
the soloist and the orchestra's principal bassist, a particularly
haunting feature of the work, enhanced on this occasion by the resonance
of Greyfriars Church.
As conductor, Steer ensured that the sudden explosions of velocity --
particularly the energising horn intrusions and the unleashing of the
finale -- made their point, though the church acoustics dealt less
favourably with the finesse of Bizet's Jeux d'Enfants, with which the
Kellam work was replaced.