Music: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce, four stars

A SHORTER than planned “Afternoon with Francois Leleux” opened the new season of the popular Thursday daytime concerts by the SSO after the French instrumentalist-turned-conductor took a tumble from the stage at the morning rehearsal and put his teeth through his lower lip. A visit to A&E later, he was on the podium to conduct Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert but was unable to play his oboe and orchestra arrangement of arias from The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni, in many ways the most intriguing element of the planned programme.

Leleux said he still had the “best instrument in the BBC Scottish”, and if the concert’s first half became a very brief 20 minutes, Mozart’s Paris Symphony, No.31, sparkled on its own. Typically, this would be Scottish Chamber Orchestra repertoire (and SCO representatives were there to hear it), but the extra string players here gave the brass licence to blow a little more, while first violin Laura Samuel led by example in making the most of the flowing line of the melodies in an account that Leleux kept sharp and precise.

Conducting the entire concert without scores, on Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture Leleux was visibly insisting in precision in dynamics as well as tempo, and the players were as responsive as he could wish.

With Schubert’s Fourth Symphony, the “Tragic”, as the final offering in this meticulously chronological programme, the best tunes were saved until last, not to mention the most complex music in a finale as packed with ideas as the symphonies of Beethoven.

Whatever the reason for the name the composer gave it, it only seems musically applicable to the sound-world of the first page. In the hands of Leleux and musicians clearly having a ball playing, it was much more triumphant than tragic.