Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Bezuidenhout

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IT WAS a very pretty stage prop, but the harpsichord at which guest soloist and conductor Kristian Bezuidenhout sat for the Haydn and Mozart symphonies that opened and closed this programme seemed to be a rather pricey music stand for all that he touched the keyboard, or its audibility when he did.

What made that detail particularly noticeable was the Steinway grand that replaced it for the Beethoven Triple Concerto in between. The South African is an early music man, whose prowess on fortepiano is key to his reputation, yet he chose to use a modern instrument for his central playing role with SCO leader Benjamin Marquise Gilmore and Principal Cello Philip Higham. If that seemed odd initially, Bezuidenhout’s carefully-modulated performance quickly cancelled any doubts. As you might expect, the communication between the SCO regulars was perfect, with Higham’s cello taking the lead role in much of the music, and Gilmore in lively support. The pianist, for his part, embraced his double role and passed off his own sparkling solo part with casual ease.

The work itself is fully deserving of profile in the current Beethoven celebrations, and it sat well here between two works from the previous generation. Haydn’s Symphony No 52 in C Minor is an instantly identifiable influence on the younger composer, especially in the final movement. Surely that is just as true of the muscular opening bars as well, and the precision choreography of the bowing of the SCO strings at the start was a joy to watch as well as to listen to.

Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony No 38 is not so much a staple food of this orchestra as music that is running though its veins. Famously recorded with Sir Charles Mackerras and more recently revisited to great acclaim with Robin Ticciati for Linn, it is still doubtful if as many as half the musicians on stage are playing on that. Nonetheless, Bezuidenhout was clearly aware what a responsive palette he had in his hands, especially in the exuberant Finale.