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Classical concert review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

02.08.11
Matthias Pintscher
The Scotsman

By Kenneth Walton

Matthias Pintscher's influence on the BBC SSO as its artist-in-association, even at this early stage, is proving extraordinary. For not only is Pintscher's own music fascinating – his Songs from Solomon's Garden was a major component in Saturday's Hear and Now concert – but his influence as a conductor and programme planner is equally inspirational.

What better to set such a tone than Webern's timbral deconstruction of Bach's fugue – a masterly example of fragmentation and unification – from The Musical Offering, which members of the SSO performed with precision. Every single work that followed bore that same polarising quality, each in its own way.

Pintscher's songs – settings in Hebrew from the biblical Song of Solomon and sung in this UK premiere by the powerful baritone Evan Hughes – were an electrifying follow-on to Webern. The supersensitive orchestral writing proved a tingling illumination of the more earthbound vocal line. The combined effect was mesmerising.

The first half ended with a violin concerto written and performed by the American David Fulmer. The discreet use of electronics and the shadowy presence of the harpsichord add an ethereal dimension to a work otherwise buzzing with translucent dynamism. Fulmer himself delivered the solo line with dizzying energy.

The seven movements of Michael Jarrell's Instantanés are Webernesque in their brevity, but are – as this taut, explosive performance proved – characterised by a breadth of expression that is intrinsically overt and expansive.

Zimmermann's stoical Stille und Umkehr sketches for orchestra rounded off a stunning programme. Pintscher's design and approach to presenting modern music has shades of Pierre Boulez about it. How promising is that?