Glasgow Barons/MacAlinden

Pearce Institute, Govan, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

GIVEN the recent controversies elsewhere in these isles over funding for classical music, it is worth noting that the current Govan Music Festival – a community event that includes school choirs, refugees performing their own ethnic music, dance, rap and hiphop – has sprung from the work of an orchestra.

Paul MacAlinden’s Glasgow Barons orchestra brings together some of those musicians in exile with young talent and a few familiar faces from other orchestras, and this concert, at the heart of this year’s diverse festival programme, was another thoughtful package of new and old music, played with style and passion.

The oldest was the Second Symphony of Jean Sibelius, which – by nothing more than coincidence – the BBC SSO will soon play in Glasgow City Halls. For the audience at the Pearce Institute, seated on the same level as the players and mere feet away, it was an immersive experience. As fine an introduction to the sound of an orchestral symphony as any work, first-time concertgoers must have left the hall knowing a great deal more about the joy of a big tune and the huge palette of colours to be heard from the most skilled composers.

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MacAlinden’s first half presented the Scottish premiere of Anna Clyne’s five movement cello concerto, Dance, with UK-domiciled American Bartholomew LaFollette the soloist. In another serendipitous piece of programming, the RSNO happens to begin its concerts this week with Clyne’s earlier piece, This Midnight Hour.

Dance is by far the bigger work, inspired by Persian Sufi poet Rumi and dedicated to the composer’s father. Even more richly orchestrated than the Sibelius, it has big moments for bowed percussion, contrabassoon, wind machine and a gong as well as a vast range of dynamic roles for the cellist. Clyne’s influences are evident and gloriously displayed – from the obvious Eastern cadences acknowledging the poem to the driving rhythms of New York’s Bang on a Can composing collective.

The opening movement, however, is a gentle affair and MacAlinden prefaced it with Samuel Barber’s perennially-popular Adagio for Strings, to which Clyne’s 2019 work surely also owes a debt. It was an astute piece of programming that set up a premiere that was an undoubted coup for the Barons and LaFollette.