BBC SSO/Chauhan

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

ON what has now happily become one of his regular visits to Glasgow, and to conduct the BBC Scottish, young Alpesh Chauhan was working with a programme that was right up his street. Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem is a work he paired with Brahms’ German Requiem for one of his first concerts with the orchestra he directs in Parma, Italy, and the selection of movements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet was the one he himself had made to conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.

In between, and for rather smaller forces than the music he usually favours, sat Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, the origins of which are almost a model of indulgence of the commissioning cheque book to contrast with the spectacular error of judgement made by the rather younger Benjamin Britten at around the same time. Neither back story has a huge effect on the works themselves, with the Sinfonia da Requiem coming across as a condensed example of the big music Chauhan likes to conduct, from its drum’n’brass beginning to a huge string sound, and the Stravinsky majoring on its fascinating rhythms.

As guest saxophonist Gareth Brady was pointing out on social media during rehearsals, specialists in the orchestral side of his instrument are rarely booked for concerts in which they feature on more than one piece. Here the sax had an important role in the Britten, and even more of a presence in the ballet music, taking its place in an afternoon that was a treat for connoisseurs of wind soloing — the brief duet between flautist Charlotte Ashton and first cello Rudi de Groote in Dumbarton Oaks being another highlight.

Chauhan’s hour-long pick of the Prokofiev is successful both as musical and dramatic narrative, and the players put a terrific ferocity into the Dance of the Knights. The thought occurred that just as the conductor’s career is moving at pace, a young violinist now playing professionally here could well have performed it with the youth orchestra just three and half years ago.