Music: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow, Four stars

CHIEF Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Thomas Dausgaard has created something special in his “Composer Roots” concerts – an idea that should be specifically of interest to Celtic Connections as an alternative to using Scotland’s orchestras in the festival in a slightly frothy way.

The first of three concerts exploring the folk music roots of the compositions of Bela Bartok suggests that this may be the most fully realised of the concept so far. Once again it included partnership with young singers from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, providing the wordless chorus in the concluding performance of the composer’s entry for “shabby little shocker”, The Miraculous Mandarin ballet.

The crucial ingredient here, however, was the presence of violinist Barnabas Kelemen, Hungarian hipster in frock coat and cummerbund. A Bartok-meister of authentic swagger, his performance of the Violin Concerto No.1 was followed after the interval by the UK premiere of the original orchestral version of the Rhapsody No.2, which the composer extensively revised after its first performances because it was thought too taxing for the soloist.

In Kelemen’s hands, it was as rootsy as can be, “Scotch snap” rhythms at its start and something very akin to bluegrass fiddle near its conclusion, while the cross rhythms in the orchestral score invited comparison with the music of very different cultures.

The concerto is no less virtuosic, particularly in its second movement, and has an even more fascinating history. Sixty years on from its premiere, and over a century since it was written, the opening section, where the soloist is very gradually joined by the players of the orchestra, is still a captivating experience – the lesson of never using 12 violins where two will do has still to sink in.

Bartok’s contemporary Zoltan Kodaly provided the similarly folk-themed opener, Summer Evening, which sounds much more in the style of the time elsewhere in the world. It would sit as comfortably alongside Ravel and Debussy as it would Tchaikovsky and Borodin, so it is a wonder it so rarely does.