Scottish Opera: Baroque Masters

40 Edington Street, Glasgow

Another corps of string players from the Orchestra of Scottish Opera joined leader Anthony Moffat for the last of the outdoor lunchtime concerts on the set of the current production of Falstaff, offering a programme of early music with one short nod to the band’s operatic repertoire.

That anomaly, Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) sat less uncomfortably among the Purcell, Vivaldi and Bach than you might think. Stylistically from another era, and with very different melancholic chords, the ensemble sound was not so far from the slow movements of two of the Italian composer’s Four Seasons: Spring and Summer.

And ensemble sound was what it was all about. This was no virtuoso excursion for Tony Moffat, and if your favourite recording of the Vivaldi warhorse is the one by Nigel Kennedy, you may well have been left disappointed.

This Spring was a very understated one, and none the worse for that. It was very precise and measured and not at all splashy. And although the Presto finale of Summer was not short of pace, it was kept on a pretty tight rein. Those who come to the same venue on Sunday or Monday for the Scottish Ensemble playing the full year of Seasons may expect to hear something less placid.

The dynamics and tempo perhaps took their cue from the opening work, Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of Henry Purcell’s Chaconne in G Minor. Britten wrote this work in his mid-30s, revising it 15 years later, and there is something of the schoolmaster and the Young Person’s Guide in the way the ground bass drops out to expose the upper strings and then returns with a bit of a bang.

All of which meant that the final piece, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, made the most impact in the hour, as the addition of solo flute, oboe and trumpet alongside Moffat at the front of the stage perhaps always made likely. With Kirstie Logan on oboe and guest flautist Taylor McLennan, the man to watch was the orchestra’s new first trumpet Paul Bosworth. He made light work of the stratospheric, nimble-fingered part, particularly in the opening of the last movement.

Although there had been a couple of lapses in intonation earlier, the ensemble strings made a rich sound here, and the propulsive continuo from Derek Clark at the keyboard with Martin Storey and Marie Connell on cellos and Peter Fry’s bass added a bit of welcome oomph.
Keith Bruce