SCO/Robin Ticciati

SCO/Robin Ticciati

City Hall, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

I do not exaggerate when I say that the producer and engineer from Linn Records, who has been busy these past two weeks recording Robin Ticciati's Schumann symphony cycle with the SCO as the orchestra has been playing the four symphonies in concert, was cock-a-hoop on Friday night. And no wonder. This has been a ground-breaking series, the results of which will be in evidence when the recordings are released in just five months (start saving now).

I was personally delighted, reeling out from a fantastic, golden performance of the Third Symphony, the Rhenish, on Friday, to meet some old chums and former colleagues of my own generation tearing up and trashing their received opinions about Schumann's qualities as an orchestrator in the light of Ticciati's pellucid and transparent texturing of the music, and the SCO's tremendous performances.

But above all it was the performance of the allegedly "difficult" Second Symphony on Friday that totally ignited my imagination. The light streamed through this piece, with Ticciati neither overdoing nor underlining its restless, mercurial qualities.

The playing in the Scherzo was totally breathtaking, and I thought my heart would break in the aching performance of the slow movement, one of the finest, most exquisite performances by the orchestra in its 40-year history.

By comparison, the performance of Brahms' Violin Concerto by Alina Pogostkina, in a longish concert with two intervals, was a fine but fairly routine affair, with not that much fresh to say about the piece.

The structure of the concert, with the double interval separating symphony, concerto and symphony again, was of Ticciati's own devising, was extremely novel and very stimulating; and pairing the music of those two great friends and fundamentally different intellects, Brahms and Schumann, was exhilarating. But this was Schumann's show, from top to bottom, and start to end. It's a major reassessment: let's all make it count.

GIOFest Vl

CCA, Glasgow

Rob Adams

It's in the nature of spontaneous music that its creators will make use of anything that comes to hand. So we had the French-American duo of Arnaud Riviére and Fritz Welch incorporating a marathon-runner's foil blanket and a broken record into their frequently intriguing and theatrical adventures on the opening night of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra's sixth annual celebration of the improviser's art.

The pair worked up quite a storm of sound, using electronics as well as percussion, although when Riviére created much the same effect with a builder's measuring tape as he had in loosening the golden foil, there did seem to be a limit to their imaginations after all.

Riviére and Welch were among ten or so guests that the orchestra had invited this year and by-and-large these certainly pulled their weight in a programme where GIO's own contributions didn't always enthral. The ensemble's response to Californian Gino Robair's opera, with its libretto read from strips of paper, converted into shorthand and back-projected as a spur to improvisation, proved a rather worthy affair, and its premiere of saxophonist Graeme Wilson's A Peculiar Slumber, inspired by the writings of Swiss modernist Robert Walser, proved only sporadically engaging, despite Robair's best efforts to add a slapstick touch by piling cymbals on top of a drum and spilling them.

Pianist Marilyn Crispell's solo spot, by contrast, was a brilliant study in building and sustaining vigorous, percussive lines and developing quieter themes that had the emotional, almost confiding quality of a jazz ballad, and her duet with Maggie Nicols produced a welter of conversational to-ing and fro-ing, with Nicols summoning up vocal lines as if, by turns, possessed by spirits or just reliving her day.

At one point she incorporated references to the late saxophonist Lol Coxhill, the subject of a film being shown on a loop downstairs, into a gripping vocal-keyboard dialogue before she and Crispell vocalised a very entertaining kind of review of how they'd felt leading up to this, their duetting debut, and how it had gone. Pretty well, I'd say.

Saturday's performance by vibraphonist Corey Mwamba, drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq, cellist Valentin Ceccaldi and double bassist Andy Champion was similarly satisfying.

Darrifourcq is an extraordinarily creative player, incorporating a zither, a coat-hanger and what might have been a clock's innards into his constant quest for sonic possibilities.

Against this and busy cello-bass chatterings, Mwamba left lots of space for his vibes to ring, giving the music a big chordal dimension before the improvisation finished with its perhaps least likely phase - a charming, quite romantic, cello-led waltz.

Following this, GIO stalwart Raymond MacDonald's Radio 3 commission, Parallel Moments Unbroken, featuring a twenty-six piece edition of the orchestra, proved a little episodic with sporadically attractive textures and an underexposed Crispell.

Maggie Nicols, however, ensured a strong ending to both commission and festival by creating a striking and quite affecting coda with GIO vocalist Cliona Cassidy that hovered and swooped in certain conclusion.