Music: BBC SSO

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce, four stars

IT was December 14 rather than February, but love was undoubtedly in the air on Thursday afternoon for the contribution from the BBC Scottish to the day’s broadcast relay for the BBC orchestras.

A programme that showcased unusual structures in composition culminated in conductor Ben Gernon’s selection of seven pieces from the three suites Serge Prokofiev created from his ballet music for Romeo and Juliet. Beginning with the bruisers on bass trombone and tuba battling it out as the Montagues and Capulets, principal flute Charlotte Ashton was cast as Juliet and guest saxophonist Carl Raven perhaps her Romeo. This edition of the SSO had a fair few faces more familiar from other ensembles, but that appeared to make no difference to the rapport the young conductor has established with the orchestra.

Guest soloist was mezzo Kathryn Rudge for Ernest Chausson’s Poeme de l’amour et de la mer, which required smaller forces but is no less richly orchestrated, with the wind section in constant dialogue with the singer. There were moments when she could have used a little more power at the bottom of her range, but it was nonetheless a very affecting performance with some lovely mournful cello from Alison Lawrance towards the end.

I was not familiar with the work of English composer Simon Wills, but I shall be taking steps to remedy that having heard his “re-ordered symphony” The Island, which opened the programme. Inspired both by Trindad, where it was composed, and Jose Saramago’s love story The Tale of the Unknown Island, it was tempestuous from the start and from the brass at the back to the strings at the front. It becomes more contemplative as it goes on, with strings and winds in contrapuntal conversation before a flute solo, then ebbs away to strings only before final flurry of activity from winds, percussion and brass.