Scottish Chamber Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

Four stars

AMERICAN conductor Karina Canellakis is an important recent addition to the SCO’s impressive list of regular guests on the podium, and perhaps her recent appointment as chief conductor at the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic may facilitate more frequent appearances in Scotland.

However, this concert did not have quite the intense edge that distinguished her programme of American music (Barber and Adams) almost exactly a year ago, and the performance of Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony which concluded the chamber orchestra’s month of the music of the composer was a slightly subdued note on which to end. While the building blocks of the work could hardly have been made more obvious, something of the flow of its choral sources seemed to be lost in the process. The SCO winds were on their usual fine form, but the strings seemed to lack edge so that the conductor’s pitch for a ballroom finish to the piece came a little late in the day.

That had not been the case earlier, and particularly in the work steered by orchestra leader Benjamin Marquise Gilmore. There was a complete absence of cliched phrasing in his playing of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E and the propulsive sensation of the soloist pulling the ensemble through the work. The smaller works on either side of the concerto were also well worth their inclusion. Mendelssohn’s two Goethe-inspired “tableaux”, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, are not obviously indebted to earlier music but works very much of their own time, with the fullest use of a larger orchestra with more brass than usually deployed by the SCO. Webern’s orchestration of the Ricercare from Bach’s Musical Offering, on the other hand, is very deliberately understated and Canellakis brought to it a poise that contrasted nicely with the exuberance of the concerto.