BBC SSO/Vedernikov

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

five stars

IF you have even a passing interest in the violoncello, Glasgow’s City Halls was the place to be on Thursday afternoon.

Headline billing went to the concerto written for the instrument he played himself by Robert Schumann, towards the end of his troubled life. Perhaps too virtuosic for his own time (he never heard it performed), it is a mystery why it is still comparatively little played compared with those of Elgar and Dvorak, given the limited repertoire of such works and the comparative abundance of players. Johannes Moser is one of the very best, with a wonderful clear rich tone on his 17th century Guarneri instrument. The fluidity of Schumann’s writing was perfectly matched by Moser’s playing, even in those fiendishly fast passages.

One of the glories of this lovely through-written work, alongside the finale cadenza partnership with the orchestra, is the slow movement’s shadowing of the soloist by the orchestra’s principal cello as his string colleagues play pizzicato. For guest first cello Rudi de Groote this was another occasion in a programme where he was in the front line, the other works also giving him a prominent role. Both were sumptuous pieces of orchestration by masters of the craft and ideal demonstrations of the meticulous skills of conductor Alexander Vedernikov, whose command of rhythmic pulse is superb.

Berlioz took Carl Maria Von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance and created a waltz template with a top tune that requires five horns, two harps and some sparkling piccolo (recent SSO recruit Luke Russell). This is balletic stuff in which not just the solo cello (although prominently that) but also clarinet and flute strut their stuff.

After the interval it was Arnold Schoenberg who made big 20th century symphonic material of the chamber music of the Piano Quartet in G Minor by Brahms. With five percussionists and winds from double bassoon and bass clarinet to high E flat instrument, Schoenberg’s scoring has solos from the cello and leader Laura Samuel as well as making superb use of the trumpets and trombones. A truly splendid concert of repertoire that was the sort of worthwhile indulgence that is the joy of our broadcasting orchestra.