Scottish Chamber Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

THE only fanfare at the end of the SCO’s 2017/18 concert season was offstage, signalling the orchestra’s shift on to its busy summer schedule – not unlike Caledonian MacBrayne, on whose ferries that programme of work often relies. Nonetheless, this was a bit of a blockbuster finish and attracted a good house of every age for core 19th century repertoire.

The Second Symphony of Robert Schumann, is – in the composer’s own recorded assessment – the product of a troubled mind, but if you were not told that, is it really audible? It is going too far, surely, to hear it as a deliberate exploration of his own psyche, even if the lurch into the second movement scherzo – which Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno made very abrupt indeed – can seem like a manic episode. The pacing of the first movement is also a tricky undertaking, and there was some initial ragged intonation in the brass, but by the third movement Adagio the exploration of the rhythmic and harmonic possibilities Schumann had set up paved the way beautifully for the recapitulation of the Finale.

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is often the virtuoso work on which precocious young talents cut their teeth, but in the experienced of hands of Frenchman Renaud Capucon, as admired for his chamber music as orchestral work, its clever structure was revealed as entirely in the service of its melodic riches. Gimeno and the soloist achieved a near-perfect balance over that careful arc, and Capucon added an encore of Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits, a nod to his good fortune in playing an 18th century instrument previously in the hands of Isaac Stern.

The orchestra’s encore-grade performance had in fact come at the start of the season-closer, the BBC SSO’s principal trumpet Mark O’Keeffe adding the off-stage voice for the Leonore Overture No 3. The work may not have succeeded to preface the opera Fidelio, but on Friday it seemed a delightfully compact expression of the essence of Beethoven.