Scottish Chamber Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IN the same week that the Scottish Ensemble had occasion to ask local hero Karen Cargill to step in to a guest role for their concerts, the SCO found itself calling on the Dunedin Consort’s John Butt to replace French conductor Raphael Pichon. His indisposition deprived Scottish audiences of an intriguing debut, but possibly also did no at all harm at the box office. It also timeously demonstrated a kinship between a directly funded national orchestra and an organisation reliant on Creative Scotland support.

Professor Butt had charge of two pieces of unfinished business, both abandoned incomplete by their composers and neither really any the worse for it. The job of presenting Schubert’s Eight “Unfinished” Symphony is less to make it seem entire than to give the best sheen to what has come down to us, and in the intensity of the string playing in the quietest passages, the chamber orchestra certainly produced the goods.

For Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, which lacks significant parts of the liturgy, the SCO Chorus once again proved to be the most cohesive of Scotland’s large amateur ensembles at the moment. The fact that the singers were not seated in sections was an obvious demonstration of the confidence in each individual voice by the choir’s current directors (the curtain call bow in Glasgow was taken by assistant chorus-master Stuart Hope). Butt varied the tempi interestingly, with a very contemplative Kyrie but soprano Mhairi Lawson proving equal to much faster solo passages. She and Anna Dennis combined beautifully, while tenor Robin Tritschler and especially bass Christian Immler had rather less to do, but it was the chorus who were the stars of the evening.