BBC SSO City Halls, Glasgow Keith Bruce four stars

Friday 19 January 2018

TWO handsome young Dutch fellows rather stole Thursday’s show (which will be broadcast on Monday evening) from their ongoing Michael Tippett symphony project, but conductor Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish did not appear to mind.

BBC SSO City Halls, Glasgow   Keith Bruce four stars

As they are already a sensation from New York to Shanghai, the coup was that this SSO appearance was a Scottish debut for Lucas and Arthur Jussen, brothers still in their early twenties whose striking visual impact at two concert grands is matched by their ability to dispatch rarely-heard repertoire with panache. Did Mozart, at about the same age, write his E flat Concerto for two pianos as a party-piece for his older sister Maria Anna and himself and, if so, which part was intended for whom?Whatever, the dialogue in the dynamic finale is as delightful as any banter between siblings, and the slow movement which precedes it goes to melodic corners that are remarkably unexpected. Lovely stuff – and plus points to the pair for completing the journey to Glasgow at all in the circumstances.

With their recording of Tippett’s Symphonies 1 and 2 just released on Hyperion, and his suppressed early Symphony in B flat to come on the first of next month, Brabbins and the SSO here played his Fourth and last, with a new recording of a what sounds like a ventilator at an intensive care bed supplying the problematic “breathing effect” the composer stipulates. That aside, the work is all about specific orchestral colour, which made Brabbins’s choice of Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune, which is loved for that rather than any narrative, the ideal concert opener.

In the symphony, the solo focus was firmly on the superb principal oboe Stella McCracken, with trumpets, trombones and tubas, tuned percussion and Lynda Cochrane at the piano also crucial ingredients. For better or worse though, it is the taped dying breath that has the last word.

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