Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Krivine

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

WITH one of its regular French conductors, Emmanuel Krivine, on the podium, the SCO ended its season with two classic French works, each worth top billing on its own. Full orchestral performances of Faure’s Requiem are relatively rare, and this was of the 1901 arrangement, with a single ten-piece violin section, sixteen lower strings (who do most of the heavy lifting), four horns and a substantial chamber organ. It was a treat, and not solely for the instrumental forces. The SCO Chorus, arranged in very readable blocks of voices, were, as ever, immaculate, the ensemble sound of the tenors particularly impressive. Swiss baritone Rudolf Rosen has the perfect matinee idol voice for the score, his Libera Me sonorous and authoritative, and his placing in the middle of the choir made some sonic sense even if it looked rather odd when he was not singing (most of the time). That decision also made it peculiar to bring young soprano Brigitte Harrigan Lees (from Ayrshire and the NYCoS National Girls Choir) centre stage next to the conductor to deliver the Pie Jesu, beautifully though she did it.

The modular nature of this familiar favourite has never been so apparent as it was here – in that and the simplicity of the scoring it was not fanciful to hear the seeds of minimalism, and especially some of the work of Philip Glass.

In 1830, Hector Berlioz was also breaking new ground with his Symphony Fantastique, although its inspiration was as much in the music of the past as in the object of his current devotion. Even if you suspect that the composer was in love with no-one as much as himself, the work is one hell of a billet-doux. What was radical about Krivine’s version were the forces on stage, large for the SCO, certainly, but a great deal smaller than Berlioz specified, and uniquely balanced, with eight players in both the first and second violins making just half of the strings, completed by six each of violas and celli and four basses, stage right. With two natural trumpets alongside the valved cornets and oboe and percussion working offstage as well as on, this was a Fantastique explored in a very specific, and highly rewarding, way. And all that brass could not have been any crisper at the finish.