Courtney Pine with Zoe Rahman

Perth Concert Hall
25th May 2015

Courtney Pine

Hats off to the people of Perth who gave gave Pine and Rahman a thoroughly appreciative reception. To listeners of jazz, used to the second half of the genre’s life featuring small ensembles with traps and bass in the rhythm section, or even to Courtney Pine’s ensemble for the album Europa of which Zoe Rahman was part, the concept of a piano and bass clarinet duo can seem strange, almost minimalist. If that is the case for you, then make a point of seeing this duo while their collaborative project is still ongoing. The range of sounds that Courtney Pine can get from the bass clarinet – high squeals from overblowing, buzzing notes below the register of a foghorn, even the percussive effects of the instrument’s keys – is phenomenal. I would have liked to have seen some of his multi-instrumentalism, but that’s just a personal preference and doesn’t in any way take away anything from what he presented in this concert.

“My name is Courtney Pine, and I love jazz,” was his introduction. His performance was full of humour and playfulness, such as the moment when he paused to make the final note of a tune but then said “Nah!” and left it unresolved, and the way he inserted cheeky quotes into some of the tunes, snatches of ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ or ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, or Bach’s Toccata in D. You may think that is a jazz cliché, and of course it is, but we’re in a post-modern era where eclectic nods and references are to be expected. So in one number he pushed it to the very limit, quoting from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, two Glenn Miller tunes, Acker Bilk’s ‘Stranger On The Shore’, and ‘There’s No Place Like Home’. The set was full of standards and recognisable song tunes such as “A Nightingale Sang In Barclay Square’, Donny Hathaway’s ‘Some Day We’ll All Be Free’, Duke Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday’, and ‘Girl Talk’. The latter was shouty, full of R&B-style blowing. Alongside these were treatments of old-timey faith-songs. There was the Olney hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, and the spirituals ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’ and ‘Let My People Go’. I think ‘Let My People Go’ was my favourite number of the night – at least it was right up until the duo gave us ‘A Child Is Born’ by Thad Jones and Alec Wilder, which they graced with a beautiful, lyrical treatment.

Zoe Rahman press, free-use 3 websize homepage(1)

Zoe Rahman is a performer and recording artist in her own right, with a style all of her own. Some of her solo playing seemed modal, or at some times impressionistic. After the concert I elbowed my way into the queue for CDs to snatch a very brief word with her, telling her I had heard echoes of Gershwin, Errol Garner, Debussy, and McCoy Tyner in her playing. “All my favourites!” she said. As for her partnership on stage with Courtney, it took me a few minutes to get used to. They have distinctly different styles and approaches, and of course play greatly different instruments. However, even though I thought the sound desk had got Zoe’s piano a little too high in the mix, so that on rare occasions the sound of the bass clarinet got a little lost, it didn’t take me long to spot that these two musicians have a marvelous rapport. Her solos were a treat, and her interaction with (rather than call it accompaniment of) Courtney was first class. Tonight’s concert will ring in my ears and be stuck in my head for a long time.

Reviewer : Paul Thompson

BBC Philharmonic

Perth Concert Hall
24th May 2015

Conductor : Andrew Gourlay

Trumpet soloist : Tine Thing Helseth

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op.48
Hummel: Trumpet Concerto in E flat
Beethoven: Symphony No.7 in A Major, Op.92

Tine Thing Helseth
Tine Thing Helseth

Conductors, like policemen, are getting younger. I have about three decades’ start on Andrew Gourlay who, tonight, was back conducting an orchestra in which he played trombone in his twenties. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra has a reputation for being ‘adventurous and creative’, but tonight they presented a programme of crowd-pleasers. That has its pitfalls as well as its benefits. There’s nothing wrong with presenting well-tried favourites and pieces that are easy to listen to, but they have to be done well. Gourlay on the podium is the proverbial safe pair of hands. His conducting style is plainly directorial and his control is obvious to see. The first sign of this control over the orchestra’s musical interpretation came with the opening theme of the Tchaikovsky. It surprised me by its relaxed pace, the slowness giving the chance to appreciate the value of the pauses in the music. The orchestra had my attention from then on and held it all the way through the four movements.

I’ve lost count of the times I have listened to recordings of the Serenade, but always I find myself – at the fourth – chuckling and saying “This is so darned Russian!” Well, of course it is, that’s what ‘Tema Russo’ means! The movement is based on two Russian folk-songs, the first with the character of a work-song or shanty, the second lively, almost like a gopak. And for me that summed up the mood of the evening – dance. The whole programme, from the ‘Waltz’ of the Serenade’s second movement to the exuberance of the 7th Symphony’s final movement, seemed to be up-beat and celebratory.

Arguably Johan Nepomuk Hummel has one foot planted firmly in the 18c and the other stepping only lightly into the 19c. His ‘post-Classical’ style of composition could be seen as a bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras. He was a pupil of Mozart, Salieri, and Haydn, Haydn’s successor as Konzertmeister to Prince Esterházy, and had a long and stormy friendship with Beethoven. His music is not as widely known today as it ought to be, and his Trumpet Concerto in E Flat, composed in 1803, is as good a way of getting to know him as any. The soloist in tonight’s performance was twenty-six-year-old Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth. The Concerto is a piece she has recorded, and I can recommend her recording. She has the benefit of a modern valve trumpet, which was unavailable at the time the concerto was composed, being probably scored for Anton Weidlinger’s new (at the time) keyed trumpet. After the orchestral introduction to the first movement, the trumpet enters like a wake-up call, but to my surprise Helseth actually had a couple of hesitant notes in her entrance. She recovered brilliantly, however, and made the trumpet ring like a bell for the rest of her performance. I would recommend both listening to the concerto, along with anything else you can find by Hummel, and catching any performance by Helseth that you can find at a concert hall near you!

I suggested that Hummel’s music marked a bridging point between the Classical and Romantic periods. When you consider that Beethoven’s 7th Symphony was composed a mere ten years after Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto, it is obvious that a heck of a lot had been going on in music in that decade. It is not surprising that the reputation of Hummel as a composer should have become obscured until his more recent rediscovery and re-appraisal. Beethoven wrote his 3rd Symphony, the Eroica, in 1804, for example, barely a year after, and the 6th, the Pastoral, in 1808. By the time the 7th was completed in 1812 it’s obvious that we’re in a different musical world and have been for some time. This symphony has been called ‘the apotheosis of rhythm’, and to my mind its inclusion in tonight’s programme furthered the celebratory, dancing theme of the evening.


Under Andrew Gourlay’s baton, the orchestra’s delivery of the 7th was faultless, and as crisp as a newly-minted fiver. It was impossible to fault it. I have adored the second movement since the first time I heard it. It is Beethoven in his ‘less is more’ mode, and the simple rondo theme on which the variations are based is relentless, repeated in shade after dramatic shade throughout the orchestra, punctuated be a couple of brief periods of repose and solace introduced by the clarinet. The final movement is explosive and frenetic, and when the coda was accomplished the evening’s celebration was complete.

Despite the programme of easy winners, this was concert was a success. Recommended: any future concerts by the BBC Phil, or with Gourlay on the podium, or with Helseth as a soloist.

Reviewer : Paul Thompson

The Proclaimers

Perth Concert Hall
23rd May 2015

Proclaimers 1

It’s almost a poison chalice being the support act for a band as ‘big’ as the Proclaimers. You go on for half an hour while people are wandering into the venue with pints and Pepsis, you work hard, you get minimal lighting, you get polite applause with maybe a few whoops, then when you go off there’s at least half an hour before the headline act. This honour fell to East Kilbride’s Declan Welsh tonight, so he deserves a mention. Declan’s a one-man act, belting out songs, accompanying himself with simple attack-chords on a guitar with fence-wire strings, pausing only to explain that the 66 bus goes from near his house to Glasgow City centre, and that his song ‘She’s from Bearsden’ is all about feeling inadequate. His voice sometimes sounds a wee bit like one of the Gallagher brothers and sometimes a wee bit like Marc Bolan and – respect to him – he gave us one hundred percent, absolutely delighted to be on that stage. He has some stuff on YouTube, so go looking.

Now, events where you’re in a venue packed with bouncing, cheering, uncritical fans of a headline act are ten-a-penny. Events where you’re in a venue packed with bouncing, cheering, uncritical fans, and the headline band cracks out twenty-two damn good songs with little chat in between except to read out dedications for members of the audience, and then does three encore numbers, are very, very rare. That’s one reason why it was a privilege to be at Perth Concert Hall for the Proclaimers tonight. They opened with ‘Sky Takes the Soul’, instantly establishing a strong position on stage. Fans didn’t have to wait long for their first ‘biggie’, as ‘Letter from America’ came up third. That was the point at which I first became aware that their voices are no longer young – some of the whoops and yodels weren’t there – but as the evening went on and the overall strength of the performance became obvious, that just didn’t matter.

Generally, if a band has a new album out there’d be a kind of tension in the air. There’d be frequent, even desperate, announcements to the effect “This is a track from our new album…” Another strength the Proclaimers have is that they don’t do that. They have more than thirty years’ worth of brilliant material to draw on, and they seem to pick from that without even thinking about it. The set contained only a small handful of songs from ‘Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’, and the feeling was that they just didn’t need to advertise. Throughout the set, from song to song, there were nods to folk, 1950s pop, country, and yet they remained, as always, resolutely Scottish. The lasting impression was of superb songwriting skills, as you would expect; in that respect, if I were asked to name a songwriter in whose league they were, I could say maybe Dave Grohl, maybe Brian Wilson. Yes, that good. But if you are a fan you don’t need me to tell you that. Naturally – predictably – the last song before walk-off and encores was ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’. We were all bouncing, cheering, and singing along to that. Well, it is Scotland’s unofficial national anthem and terrace song.

If the Proclaimers have passed you by, however, as they did me for a long time, then don’t worry, just rectify that. Go hunting on YouTube for a start. Better still, put the dates December 1st and 2nd (Glasgow), and 4th and 5th (Edinburgh) in your diaries.

Reviewer : Paul Thompson

Yamato: Bakuon

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

18 May 2015

Yamato the drummers of Japan
Yamato the drummers of Japan

Tonight’s big budget performance was the Yamato drummers from Japan. Yomoto’s live show has been watched by more than 6 milion people since they were formed in 1993 in the town from where they take their name. You might call them the U2 of taiko drumming.  They made their international debut in 1998 Festival Fringe right here in the ‘burgh, & it felt great to have them back as their 7 members (5 men and two women) play traditional Japanese taiko drums, ranging in size from the size of a snare up to a drum of bowel-shifting proportion at around 1.5m in diameter.

The show is divided into 2 sets of an hour, presumably to give the performers a rest from the ferocious pace of the performance.  Make no mistake these guys are athletes as well as talented musicians. This is drumming as a martial art. They are not purely percussionists: other traditional instruments are used like the shakuhachi (Japanese flute), shamisen(plucked string instrument), chappa (hand cymbals) and the huge zither-like koto which puts me in mind of a Vietnamese Dan Tranh.

The best bits can be mesmerising with rapid choreographed drumming in drums in different tones.  It’s becomes hypnotic in its pace.  The show has all the flashiness of a Riverdance performance.  There was energy, agility and skill in abundance but the glitz and humour in the performance didn’t work on me personally 0 although I was clearly in a minority as the crowd clapped and yelled their way through the 10 minute encore.

Reviewer David McCaramba

Haydn: ‘The Creation’

Scottish Chamber Orchestra and SCO Chorus

City Halls, Glasgow,

May 15th 2015


Haydn’s ‘The Creation’ (Die Schöpfung) written a couple of years before the end of the 18th century is counted his master work. It sprung from a visit to England, and was prompted by a variety of sources – Handel’s large scale choral works, the Gospels (Genesis and the Psalms), Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ – and maybe even a visit to Herschel the astronomer. This was the first time I had heard it in performance, though I’veowned a couple or recorded versions, and I was curious about my response since I’ll confess I hadn’t really ever taken to it – in contrast to his ‘Creation’ Mass (Schöpfungsmesse) whose liveliness (the way the Kyrie kicks in and takes off cheerfully after a couple of minutes, for instance) has always attracted me.

Haydn wanted people to be cheered by his religious works – as an introductory note in the concert programme indicated – but, as I say, I just hadn’t got that reaction to his main oratorio. The same programme note, without singling me out, covered the point by dismissing ‘supposedly more liberal Romantics’ who wanted things more ‘monumental’ as in Beethoven and Bach. Okay, guilty: though not quite as charged. I had always felt ‘The Creation’ needed a bit more infusion of spirit; and if it was supposed to be ‘charming’ too, I had yet to feel it – at least not much to compare with Mozart in the same department. Well, luckily, this performance by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with conductor Harry Christophers, and the SCO Chorus under the direction of Gregory Batsleer, along with three cracking soloists, set all to rights. That’s good and proper; after all, I share a birthday with Haydn – though not quite in the same year at school.

So what happened to turn me round? Well, everything was fully professional about this ensemble – and every element contributed to the evening’s success. The prelude or overture was maybe ‘solid’ as the Americans say, rather than inspiring, but the woodwinds were already coming through, and before very long the quality of the artists overall was established clearly. The baritone, Matthew Brook, as Raphael and Adam, carried more than his fair share of recitative early on, but his range and phrasing in passages showing ‘the face of the deep’ and ‘the light and flaky snow’ for instance were beautifully conveyed. He created a fresh dimension in the second part by the slightest means: bringing humour to the catalogue of animals, down to the ‘host of insects’ and ‘with sinuous trace the worm’, lighting up the audience with his inflections. He always had presence to add to his authority in his solo arias, and fine judgement in tone and ‘touch’.

Sophie Bevan, soprano, as Gabriel and Eve, from the outset had energy and flexibility, and brought immediate vivacity in combination with the choir offering praise;this was lyricism with strength and grace in embellishment, and she perfectly placed the highest notes required of her. There are some good opportunites for the soprano here, like the aria in F major ‘On mighty wings..’, and Bevan was certainly equal to them; but her work as part of chorus and trio was also there to be appreciated. I was especially struck by her part in the rolling line repeated and sustained as ‘His glory lasts for ever, and for evermore’. Her duet with the tenor (and a grumbling, background contrabassoon, or something like it) was also a special element.

The tenor was Andrew Staples as Uriel, and from the outset he matched the others  in power and sensitivity, both in the recitatives and arias such as ‘In native worth and honour clad’.

My neighbour in the next seat rightly approved the articulation of the singers and especially the choir, obviously under very skilful direction, who gave us energy infused with celebration: not only in ‘Light!’ ‘Awake!’ and ‘alleluia’ but in the more softly lambent passages too. As to the SCO itself, the very high standard established by the players, maintained here by HarryChristophers as guest conductor, is a lasting source of pleasure. Every section, along with the singers, through their skill, subtlety and commitment helped turn me round to appreciate what I had somehow missed before.

Reviewer : Mr Scales


The Fureys

Eden Court, Inverness
15th May
The well-known Irish folk band from Dublin packed out Eden Court on Friday night. With two of  the original Furey brothers, Eddie and George, accompanied by 3 other musicians they certainly had the audience clapping. We were toe-tapping, singing and joining in their humorous, lively and thoroughly entertaining concert. From accordion, penny whistle, bodrum, guitars, banjos to the electric cello, the mixture of sounds was atmospheric and engaging
They played a diverse collection of songs, written by great writers and performers they met over the years, from their new CD ‘The Times They Are A Changing’ as well as several well-known ones. ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen’, ‘The Green Fields of France’ and the ‘Leaving of Liverpool’. The brothers` jokes and stories only added to the intimate and enjoyable experience. Songs like’ I Miss The Old Man’ and ‘This One Is For You’, dedicated to their late Mum and brother, Paul, were heartfelt sang and couldn`t fail to touch the hearts of  the audience. Singing Go Lassie Go with everyone joining in ended the concert, making us feel that we had been part of a lively sing-along with friends from Ireland. A good night out had by all.
Reviewer : Stephanie McDaid

Seth Rozanoff

Glasgow City Halls

Recital Rooms



It has to be said that to have a middle ground in music there has to be an edge to define the centre. Much electronic music-making sits firmly at that edge but without these esoteric composers and performers there would be no techno, no incidental film music and many other innovations that are now commonplace in the armoury of the modern studio recording artist.

The night’s performance was comprised of two very differing pieces, both about twenty-five to thirty minutes in length.

The first piece was far more strident and rhythmic with Rozanoff accompanied by Dave Stockard on various percussion effects. The percussionist lent a sense of theatre to proceedings as, quite frankly, watching someone create a sonic pallette sitting at an Apple Macbook isn’t exactly riveting stuff. Gone are the days of studious chaps with horn-rimmed glasses, beards and woolly jumpers sitting in front of banks of oscillators and giant tangles of wires- everything can be done on your laptop.

The second piece was more reflective and much of the musical narrative was made up of guitar samples provided by experimental French guitarist and collaborator Olivier Jambois.

Both pieces had a discernible atmosphere of their own, and, to my mind, were pretty successful in achieving their aims as logical progressions of tension and ebb and flow.

Mention has to be made of the City Halls Recital Rooms which were a perfect setting for the performance and well done Sound Lab for giving electronica a platform.

Reviewer : Dave Ivens

Beethoven : Missa Solemnis

 City Halls, Glasgow

May 10th, 2015

Beethoven composed his first of two settings of the mass in 1807, but Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, who had commissioned the Mass in C Major, humiliated the composer in his reception of it, and Beethoven, on the receiving end of a condescending comment by the prince, left his house in a fury. It took him fifteen years to tackle another setting – the Missa Solemnis, four years in composition, and written when he was at the height of his powers. The Mass in C Major (setting aside the prince’s churlishness) has a direct and positive emotional appeal, but the Missa Solemnis is one of the wonders of the musical world, and only its challenges at all levels and for all those involved perhaps prevent it from being performed more often. The performance I attended featured The City of Glasgow Chorus, The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, and four soloists with connections to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They were conducted by Bartosz Zurakowski.
My first encounter with this music was in the recording of von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Singverein, with Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Fritz Wunderlich and Walter Berry as the soloists. A formidable basis for any comparison. But, in fact, this assisted me in shaping my response to the performance in Glasgow. What do we look for: technical perfection or something that moves us? Truth or Beauty? Sometimes we can catch a portion of both. In this concert, everyone’s commitment to the piece was evident, and if there were any points over which the purists might come in, the way in which Beethoven’s great continuities were allowed to unfold, and the manner in which the music came through to affect us, compensated fully. For me it was deeply moving.If my familiarity with the piece partly prompted that, then I can only say nothing interfered with it either.

All sections of the choir put everything into their responses to the conductor and the score; members of the orchestratoo handled well the varying demands of the piece (drive on the bassoons!), and the ensemble work – as in the snappy conclusion to the ‘Gloria’ – was often very impressive. A special word for the soloists. Charlie Drummond (soprano) had range and dynamic to carry all that was required; sometimes (remember I have Janowitz at the back of my mind) her voice soared with a true and piercing tonal quality. Jane Monari (Mezzo) had beautiful control and warmth in delivery. Matthew Morgan (Tenor) had a lot to put across, and responded really well; the voice of Jonathan Forbes Kennedy (Baritone) is rich and pure, and will gain resonance as it develops. Their work together, as in the striking opening to the ‘Agnus Dei’, underlined their special quality. In fact all these singers, essentially still at different phases in training, will gain from the experience, and the belief that we will get more from all of them is really cheering. Their sensitivity and musicianship is already established. Their vocal contribution (generously acknowledged at the close by the conductor) was central to our enjoyment of the piece.As was the contribution of Bartosz Zurakowski himself. The choir rose to him in tribute at one of the curtain calls; clearly the work they had put in with the conductor(and with their musical director, Graham Taylor) was fully appreciated. Glad I was there to hear it.

Reviewer : Mr Scales

Mark Morriss

Eden Court
Fri 8th May
Performing at Inverness , Eden Court, Mark Morriss gave an entertaining evening of guitar and humour. The previous front-man for the Bluetones that shot to fame in Brit Pop ninties, gave a truthful performance. No pretence or egos in sight just Mark and his guitar. Sharing stories and personal opinion Mark does not take himself too seriously, and fame has had little effect. Opening with his own track,’its hard to be good all the time’ from 2nd solo album ‘a flash of darkness’ Mark eased into his set of Bluetones hits, solo work and interesting covers.
Interacting with the audience is second nature to Mark, as he laughs at the local MP, Inverness ‘gentlemans club’ and old crooners in the next auditorium. As he chooses each tune seemingly on a whim we hear ‘Space cadet’ and ‘Consuela’,, also from his 2nd album. Bluetones hit ‘Bluetonic’, ‘Slight Return’ and ‘The Fountainhead’ mixed with an emotional Scott Walker cover ‘Duchess’. Marks rendition of East17’s ‘Stay Another Day’  with comical lyrics is a note-able track to Youtube.
Mark now has two solo albums (Memory Muscle / A Flash of Darkness) and is set to go back on tour with re-formed Bluetones in Autumn this year. Also currently playing in The Maypoles Mark seem to have a lot  more to give. An enjoyable and humorous evening had, I’m sure there is a long career ahead for this performer.
Reviewer : Stephanie McDaid

Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Barber Violin Concerto

City Halls, Glasgow

May 1st

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Swensen, who has a long and distinguished association with the SCO, gave us four compositions from the 1920’s and 30’s in a concert that brought out genuine enthusiasm in the audience, whoproduced a spirited response at the close. (‘This is not Edinburgh’ my companionsaid, as she sent a couple of piercing whistles across the length of City Halls – enoughto make the guy immediately in front duck down for cover.)

Stravinsky’s ‘Concerto in E-flat ‘Dumbarton Oaks’, with its links to the Brandenberg Concertos, made a good start: it has a nice sway and bounce initially, with the discordancies contributing to passages of cheerful progress, and the hinted baroque elements are modernised into similar positive advances and shifts in sonority. The fifteen players (flute, bassoon, clarinet, two horns, ten strings) chimed and combined on every requirement – from elegance to mischief – and always with warmth and lyrical ‘body’ too.

Benjamin Britten wrote ‘Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge’, to be performed by string orchestra, as a tribute to his former teacher, and each section was written to reflect and acknowledge elements of Bridge’s character – including integrity, charm, energy, humour, sympathy, skill – elements which in fact characterised not only this piece but the concert as a whole. The SCO pitched right into this, Swensen showing some neat Qi Gong flourishes to take it through all the necessary transitions; though, as we discovered in the second half, when he became solo violin, the discipline and responsiveness of the orchestra thoughout could only be down to clear and careful work in rehearsal.

I lost track a bit in following the proper order of Britten’s variations – there is a great thematic mix, what with marches, a ‘romance’, an aria, a bourrée (a speedy French dance), a waltz, a fugue, and so on – but this had no effect on my overall enjoyment of the piece. At each point the SCO responded with the skill and subtlety required. There were good, rumbling openings with double bass and cellos working hard; there were swelling violins and violas, with pizzicato too, and chittering, high energy.

Through headlong passages things tumbled and sliced or slowed to an end. At one point there was a lovely ‘wakening’ effect: almost like yawning and stretching, with a slow, careful mustering of energy that never quite breaks out, before the whole thing rolls over and goes back to sleep. In the ‘Fugue and finale’ there is a melodic line that builds with promise and moves into beautiful elegaic passage like the Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th, then gradually diminishes before the brief flourish that ends the whole piece. Scintillating stuff, and it made for an exciting first half.

Joseph Swensen had himself orchestrated Prokofiev’s ‘Cinq Melodies, Op 35a’: they were originally ‘five wordless songs’, though Prokofiev transcribed them later for violin and piano. The commitment from all the players (considerably reinforced for the second half) was still there, and some of the elements that had already been on display were reinforced: rapid shifts in mood and tone, a variety of motifs and melodies, ‘eastern’ features adding interest, lyrical flourishes; but for me the mix in Prokofiev was not as attractive as in the earlier pieces, and my attention drifted a little about two thirds of the way through. Swensen was energetic in his playing and conducting – featuring some encouraging wafts with the bow, or a free bare hand – but this piece was less engaging for me than the other programme selections.

Differences in personal preference and some interference by a middle man, along with maybe a failure of imagination by those involved in its commission, meant that Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Op 14 didn’t really have a happy start. But when it was premiered under different auspices in 1941 it was an immediate success. It was obviously a main piece for Swensen, and his presence was galvanising in centre stage. Freed from the score he had needed for the Prokofiev, his stance was more open to the audience, and in the expansive start to the composition we could see his relation to the orchestra was more potent too.

It was glorious to hear the full range and force of the SCO in some of the grand, dynamic passages – and to enjoy the more twinkling brio bits too. Though I didn’t relish the suggestion of a type of ‘Scotch’ melody that crept in from time to time towards the end of the first movement. The second movement, andante sostenuto, has an unexpected and beautiful opening theme established by solo oboe which is contrasted, then echoed, by the solo violin. A key feature was the way the strings and the woodwind and horns combined and offset each other; and Swensen’s playing, especially at the end of the movement, was very fine. The third movement, delivered as prescribed presto in moto perpetuo, guaranteed powerful darting energy from the outset, and was driven through with a clear onrush to its bravura conclusion. As I said earlier, the audience then came in promptly to convey how well, and with what satisfaction, they had been swept along.

Reviewer : Mr Scales