Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Leleux

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

five stars

IF the upcoming 250th anniversary celebrations of the work of Beethoven leads to a surfeit of his overtures beginning concerts - and the SCO will also play Prometheus and Coriolan this season - that will be no bad thing. These dramatic works are as fine a way of starting a programme, and a season, as any, and Francois Leleux’s account of the Egmont, ending with the four natural horn players in arresting ensemble, set the tone perfectly.

At whatever point the conductor decided to restore this concert to conventional order, it was the correct decision. While the First Piano Concerto of Johannes Brahms is a weighty work, musical as well as chronological sequence demanded that it preceded Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7. Javier Perianes is one of the key piano stylists of our time and this was a sparkling partnership, with those horns again in fine form as the orchestra builds a platform for the soloist at the start of the first two movements, before the piano launches the marvellous opening of the finale. Leleux and Perianes gave us a reading that was full of reminders, from the keyboard’s first entry in the company of the trumpets and timpani onwards, of how radical the work was at its first performance in 1858.

The Dvorak symphony was perhaps rather less bold at the time of its 1885 premiere, but it owes an unmistakable debt to Brahms, who encouraged and helped his younger friend. Although he did not know it then, Dvorak was poised to take the musical language he was developing on a further journey that set the tone for the coming century.

Here we heard a French conductor with a Scottish orchestra, playing, with consummate eloquence, a major London commission from a Czech composer who conquered America, paying homage, to some degree, to his German mentor. This was the sound of a world that then survived and thrived through two world wars, but which we currently often seem hell-bent on throwing away.

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