West End Festival

Amicus Orchestra/Baxter

St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

AS Scottish Opera’s Head of Music Derek Clark took up the baton for the final Edinburgh performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the conductor for the rest of the performances, Tobias Ringborg, headed west with his violin to join the amateurs, retirees and young professionals of Amicus for their West End Festival concert.

Of all the many times I have heard the Bruch Violin Concerto, never have I had such proximity to the soloist (although St Mary’s has a fine acoustic wherever you are seated) and Ringborg’s muscular account of the work made that a visual as well as aural experience. With fine crisp playing from the Amicus winds, the way the work sat so securely under his fingers was surely an inspiration to the strings as well. The gypsy dance finale was a macho affair: powerful, dynamic and, under conductor Robert Baxter, #AsOne, to borrow the Scottish rugby team’s motto.

There was some very fine ensemble playing in Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony too, the trombones and tuba in the First Movement in particular and the swell of the strings at the opening of the Adagio demonstrating a distinctive “chamber orchestra” sound. Although they found a lighter touch for the lovely melody of the Third, it was the incisive playing of the violins throughout that most impressed, under the clear leadership of RCS masters student Abigail Young. Some lovely playing from first flute Georgiana Hughes as well.

There were occasional lapses in intonation, notably from the cellos at the start of the finale, and the horns would probably have welcomed a second tilt at the exposed opening of Humperdinck’s Prelude to Hansel and Gretel, which opened the concert, but the collective coherence of the orchestra, which finds room for school pupils alongside an octogenarian, was often remarkable.

And much credit to the evening’s soloist for sitting in amongst the fiddles for the symphony himself.