Classical review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra - Glasgow City Halls

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WHAT Edinburgh missed as a result of Thursday’s cancelled concert, Glasgow got on a less blustery Friday. The programme included a new Violin Concerto by the Icelandic composer (and former SCO principal cellist) Hafliði Hallgrimsson, with violinist Jennifer Pike as soloist.

Hallgrimsson’s concerto is fundamentally calm, thoughtfully assembled and genuinely engaging. A pulsating two-note motif gives the opening bars a sense of bareness that is arresting in its elemental simplicity, yet energising in its rhythmic potential. Pike’s interpretation harnessed both these characteristics, in particular allowing the outpouring of successive gestural ideas to emerge with increasing force and assertion, only to recede with a final and fulfilling sense of appeasement.

Yet this is a concerto in which the protagonist would be nothing without the atmospheric cushioning of the orchestral score. Sometimes lush and verdant, at other times hot and aggressive, there was something restful and reassuring, almost comforting, about its role in this performance, which Spanish conductor Enrique Mazzola judiciously adhered to.

A similar efficiency informed the remainder of the programme, which included Sibelius’s heroically fashioned King Kristian II Suite, and Grieg’s rarely-heard Symphony in C minor – a work so Germanic it falls into the sub-Schumann category, only occasionally pre-empting the Nordic freshness of the composer’s later works.

Yet neither performance was as completely clean or charismatic as the SCO would normally muster, as if something had knocked some of the wind out of its sails.

Rating: ***