Matthias Pintscher (SSO)

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Glasgow City Halls
11th November


This is a concert review, but imagine for a moment you’re looking into a wood through a window. Step outside into the trees and you’re in a world of sound; of snaps and creaks, rushing leaves, and from near and far the conversation of birds. Last night’s vivid Hear and Now: Matthias Pintscher conducts concert with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was definitely an ‘outside in the forest’ experience, partly thanks to the City Halls’ fabulous acoustics, but mainly due to the compositions and their excellent re-creation by Pintscher and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The ecosystem of orchestral colour throughout was fabulous, with percussion spotters in particular being richly rewarded.

In Siddartha by Claude Vivier the orchestra was divided into groups with physical distance enabling instruments of the same type to dialogue across the stage with each other, or unison duets (e.g. between the piano and clarinet) to fascinate. The programme was also jam packed with stories behind the sounds, the most famous of which was The Emperor and the Nightingale on which Stravinsky based Le Chant de Rossignol. Here I have to confess I lost the narrative plot, and was surprised by the quiet ending, having allowed myself to succumb to first becoming distracted and then intrigued by small extraneous sounds. Paper programmes make a noise when you turn pages… However there was something else – a wooden sound, was it someone’s seat? No, I reckon the back of the conductor’s podium creaked quite often, when the big man shifted his weight about. Which of course he did with the awareness of a dancer, and great charisma. But to get back to Vivier – what a piece! It shows off the sounds of the orchestra so well and is full of dynamic contrast, splashes of sounds growing in intensity before being silenced to a thud. Surely a worthy replacement for some of the tired but trusted works away from which programmers dare not stray too far?

The most contemporary piece of the night was Im Nebel (2013), a trumpet concerto by Hosio Toshekawa, one of Japan’s foremost composers who was born in Hiroshima in 1955. And it felt contemporary, the fog (nebel) of the Herman Hesse poem feeling akin to the enveloping contemporary angst of our information-overloaded times which held the trumpet in its thrall for some time, before the soloist finally managed to take some tentative, and beautiful, steps alone.

I could go on, there was just so much in this totally free, top quality concert. If you missed it, it was being recorded for broadcast by BBC radio 3. But to hear the true sounds of the orchestra in its native habitat you must come to the concert hall. The sound of the quickly articulated tubular bells sending harmonics bouncing off and above the busy brass and strings was only one of the thrilling highlights of this wonderful concert. And I haven’t even mentioned the sonorous tug and push of Takemitsu’s Twill by Twilight.

Reviewer : Catherine Euonson

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