Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Makela

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce


AT JUST 23 years old, Finnish conductor Klaus Makela is chief conductor designate of the Oslo Philharmonic and principal guest conductor with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, so it was a bit of a coup for the SCO, no slouch at recognising precocious talent in its own conducting appointments, to have him on the podium for this all-Mozart programme, and the first appearance this season of the SCO Chorus singing the Sussmayr completion of the Requiem.

Perhaps, however, indulging the impetuosity of youth is not always the best course of action. Wiser, more experienced, counsel might have advised against the lacklustre first half of this concert, whose main attribute was its brevity. It is indeed a wonder that the composer wrote his first symphony at the age of eight, but it is not so surprising that he went on to write many far superior ones. The short outer movements of Mozart’s Symphony No.1 in E flat are sparky enough, but the Andante is ponderous at best, repetitious, and with none of his melodic gifts, and far outstays its welcome.

Makela chose to segue the symphony, under fifteen minutes in total length, into two brief later pieces in C Minor, the Adagio and Fugue from 1788 and the Masonic Funeral Music of three years earlier. Neither of these is exactly essential Mozart, and the development of the former comes as perilously close as the middle movement of the symphony to being rather dull.

It would be good to be able to report that the second half of the concert redeemed the evening, but although the chorus sang the Requiem as beautifully as you would expect - it is absolutely core repertoire for this choir - the singers must already be anticipating greater things in their next outing, at the start of December, with chorus director Gregory Batsleer on the podium.

The best of the soloists were Finnish bass Markus Suihkonen and English soprano Susanna Harrell, who was a very last minute replacement for German Simone Kermes, who had sung at the Usher Hall the previous evening. German tenor Markus Brutscher’s voice seemed too shrill for this music, and mezzo Hanna Hipp, a Scottish Opera favourite in recent years, was also miscast here. Unlike the chorus, the professional ensemble sound did not gel.