BBC SSO/Chauhan

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

THERE are many different ways to move orchestral concerts online, we are discovering, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra opened its season in a fashion that was as akin to its customary style as possible (albeit lacking an audience), introducing new Associate Conductor Alpesh Chauhan with a full programme of four works, broadcast live on Radio 3 from its home venue, as well as streaming on the orchestra’s YouTube page.

The contrast between the approach of the two young men conducting the coincident performances by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the SSO was impossible to ignore. The Birmingham boy is, beyond argument, the less animated and more sober figure, and the final work in his concert, Mendelssohn’s devoutly Lutheran “Reformation” Symphony, might have been scheduled to prove the point. In this version, very powerfully played by all, there was some lightness, especially in Charlotte Ashton’s sparkling flute at the start of the final movement, but it remains one of the composers weightier works, as beholden to Bach as to The Almighty.

The evening had been designed to riff on that indebtedness, pairing that symphony with Prokofiev’s First, with its somewhat less obviously respectful debt to Haydn, and beginning with Magnus Lindberg’s contemporary Aventures, which playfully samples gobbets of familiar tunes from Purcell and Monteverdi to Stravinsky and Prokofiev, via Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. It is great fun, but the balance between the brash and the jiggery-pokery is not easy to pull off, and the Prokofiev initially also lacked a little lightness of touch.

With the brass players in the unoccupied gallery and choir stalls of the City Hall, it was followed by an inspired response to the current restrictions in Michael Tippett’s Fanfare No.1 for Brass, from 1943. Delightfully intricate stuff, here was a repurposing of military muscle by a conscientious objector that was well worth re-hearing.