BBC SSO/Dausgaard

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

AS listeners to the live broadcast on Radio 3 will have heard, the Images for orchestra by Claude Debussy – as distinct from his earlier solo piano works of the same title – are unfamiliar, even to regular Thursday evening concertgoers. That explained the applause that interrupted the sequence of their performance (although not to any real detrimental effect), which also demonstrated how unusual is the structure of the work. A set of three pieces, the outer two are based on folk-tunes and the central one, Iberia, is a triptych in itself and was the reason for its inclusion in this Spanish-themed programme, although the most startling ingredient is the French composer’s use of the Tyneside’s The Keel Row in the first part. It is a very richly-orchestrated work (10 violas and six basses on one side of conductor Thomas Dausgaard, four clarinets and five horns in front of him, for example) and the double reed instruments – including cor anglais and oboe d’amore – had their first moments of what was a full evening of being an essential “Spanish” sound.

That is as true of genuinely Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, in his suite of dances from The Three-Cornered Hat, as it is of another Frenchman with an Iberian fixation, Maurice Ravel, whose Alborada del gracioso and Rapsodie espangnole were played after the interval, the combination of celeste and bassoon adding the most evocative few bars of the latter.

They bracketed the appearance of pianist Javier Perianes, who has already made two memorable appearances in this hall, playing Saint-Saens with the SSO under Matthias Pintscher and then stepping in for both Igor Levit and Robin Ticciati to both play and direct the Schumann Piano Concerto with the SCO in the autumn of 2017. De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, arguably a concerto in all but name, is perhaps technically less demanding than either of those, but it is easy to hear why Perianes is championing such attractive music, and the kinship with Debussy’s impressionism was always evident, even if it falls into a more familiar shape.