Scottish Chamber Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IT was an inspired idea to introduce the apparently incongruous music of Francis Poulenc into this concert that chiefly featured the seasoned partnership of the SCO, Polish pianist Piotr Andreszewski and Mozart. With co-leader Stephanie Gonley directing the orchestra from a raised podium in her usual place, the Poulenc Sinfonietta was a highly effective contrast in terms of the broader sound-world being projected from the platform, but it also shared a certain vivacity and sparkling palette of colours with Mozart’s G Major Concerto that preceded it.

Both works also illustrate their composer’s love of the theatre. In the case of the Poulenc that is obvious in the carnival and circus atmosphere of the tunes and orchestration, showing an obvious debt to Stravinsky and, perhaps more surprisingly, a kinship with English music of the post-war years. For Mozart it is audible in the melodies that crop up – or ones very like them – in the operas that he was composing around the same time.

The concertos also supply a key to understanding the light and shade in those works, because the C Minor Concerto, which followed the Poulenc, is a much darker, more enveloping creation, with a depth to it, and a closer relationship between soloist and orchestra, than the sunnier work of two years earlier.

It also adds clarinets and brass to the scoring, and yet sounded more of a piece on the night. Although the ensemble sound was near perfect by the finale of the earlier work, the slow movement aria had moments when either the winds or the piano seemed over-loud, although the strings were always a model of restraint.

Praise should go to guest principal bassoon Higinio Arrue for his beautifully round-toned contributions, while the variation of tonal colour Anderszewski produced from the Steinway was, as always, a marvel.