City Halls, Glasgow
Viola player-turned-conductor Chloe van Soeterstede has a forward schedule that many musicians may currently envy, with concerts in her native France, Germany and England all upcoming early in 2021. This packed hour-and-a-quarter programme for BBC Radio 3’s Afternoon performance strand suggests that it is built on an appetite for hard work to tight deadlines.
Only the Schumann Cello Concerto, for which the orchestra was joined by the silver-maned Steven Isserlis, appears in the repertoire she lists on her website. It was bracketed by two delicious pieces of orchestration by women composers, with a less-often-played Mozart symphony, No 34 in C, rounding things off.
Isserlis gave as masterful a performance of the Schumann as you might expect. His stated intention to be a conduit for the composer to tell his own story may have sounded like the sort of thing all soloists say, but in this case it was demonstrably true from the opening anguished bars. There was no bathetic self-indulgence in the finale either, a movement in which the soloist’s communication with the conductor and her strict tempo was very evident.
Van Soeterstede is both rigorous and lucid in her beat, disciplines essential for the brief Reckless by Sally Beamish, which is punchy in the way of the animation scores of Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott, but with terrific orchestration. The scoring was also what distinguished the opening Concert Overture by Elfrida Andree. This terrific work had its second performance in 1998, well over a century after its premiere, and it alone suggests that the Swedish composer, who was chief organist in Gothenburg for most of her life, is another woman whose work is ripe for rediscovery. Beautiful writing for the winds had the finest realisation by the SSO’s principals, and a lovely silky string sound was provided for van Soeterstede’s crisp direction.
Mozart’s last Salzburg symphony before he escaped to the bright lights of Vienna is an unfinished work of three movements, but it stands happily in the catalogue in that form. The central Andante is the young composer at his most elegantly pared-back, but the fast outer movements were the stars of the trio here. There was an immediate chamber orchestra energy to the first one, and the finale, built around the orchestra’s pair of oboes in close harmony, was most definitely the sound of a young man on the move.
The young woman on the podium is surely going places as well.