Music in Glasgow 6-10 October 2010
A city break to Glasgow was greatly rewarding, both for the visual arts (Kelvingrove Gallery [L] and Charles Rennie Mackintosh's astonishing School of Art), and for discovering a very lively music scene, with well attended concerts some of which would attract but small audiences in London.
On arrival, after supper at the Centre for Contemporary Arts we caught part of an evening of live music, electronics and film upstairs, with the Scottish Ensemble and featuring Ned Bigham, whose Octarama for 8 loudspeakers can be heard on line.
The modern RSAMD's weekly lunchtime concert in their fine modern Academy Concert Hall featured Scots composer William Sweeney and two cellists who'd done teaching exchanges between Finland & Scotland.
Sweeney's new cello sonata was perhaps a little underprepared and suffered from having the piano lid on short stick, which tends to congest the sound rather than softening it. His cello duo Tree O'Licht though is a gem which academy cello teachers should all acquire? Fali Pavri was far more comfortable in the Schumann Fantasiestucke.
The previous night Schumann ( Brahms Fantasien Op 116, Scott Mitchell) had featured in a regular post-concert Coda given in the wonderful auditorium at City Halls, which has had a through make-over and serves as the BBCSSO's preferred recording studio.
The main event had been a great concert conducted by Donald Runnicles with Beethoven's Eroica preceded by an unforgettable account of the Brahms concerto by the very special young Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang - see her on video in Sibelius!
Definitely hers is a name we'll soon know well.
Mozart Don Giovanni
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra's two performances of Don Giovanni under their Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati (the extension of whose contract has just been announced) became a "Farewell" tribute to Sir Charles, with whom they had been recording for Linn right up until his death. Ticciati greatly impressed in the Don, and was served by a magnificent starry cast, and (as the previous night) by the superb acoustic of the City Halls, unrivalled in Great Britain.
A word about the arrangements; the modestly priced programme was supplemented by a full bi-lingual libretto in good-sized clear print, and the lights were left on at just the right levels for following it whilst enjoying the interractions of the protagonsts on stage. It was great to be freed to concentrate on the music, for once, without the superimposition of the latest aspiring opera director's "concept"...
This was a Don Giovanni to relish; it might well have been the basis of a new recording, but for the fact that Sir Charles had recorded it with the SCO in 1995; those acclaimed discs were on sale [Telarc 80726; 3 for 1] and I have been able to confirm high expectations of it.
No libretto is included in the boxed set, which has notes in miniscule print; perhaps the SCO might supply copies of theirs produced for this month's tribute performances in Glasgow and Edinburgh?
Hearing the BBCSSO under Runnicles and the SCO under Ticciati at City Halls left us in no doubt that these are world class orchestras, their Glasgow concerts as fine as anything to be heard in London.
Organ recitals at Kelvingrove
Which leaves only an event surely unique to Glasgow; daily organ recitals at lunchtime in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
No one could do justice to this world class art collection in a week, let alone on a one-day visit.
The whole museum closed for several years for complete restoration and the pictures have been re-hung, Kelvingrove's great collection now presented ideally for non-experts and their families, with just the right amount of information on each exhibit to stimulate interest and active looking; brilliant curatorial expertise.
We contrived to be there twice over lunch hours and together with large and receptive audiences enjoyed traditional organ recital fare on the magnificently restored Lewis organ of 1901. Both organists were highly professional and completely assured, with likely familiarity with this great organ.
Peter Grahame Woolf
(In the picture below, note the screens below the console, left showing the pedals, right the keyboards - very helpful.)