City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

THERE will not be many Saturdays when two Scottish audiences are hearing different pieces by Oxford-born composer Charlotte Bray, but this weekend as the Schubert Ensemble performed her piano quartet Zustande in Stirling on the group’s farewell tour, Geoffrey Paterson was conducting Bray’s Stone Dancer as the opening salvo in a programme for BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now strand of contemporary music.

Bray makes the most of her resources in the orchestral piece in what is a very colourful work that ranges widely in pitch, tempo and dynamics. Thanks to a hiccup in the recording process we were blessed to enjoy its ten minutes twice, which is arguably the better way to appreciate a new work.

While it had its first performance last year under Oliver Knussen at Aldeburgh, Thomas Hyde’s Symphony was a world premiere and the most immediately arresting of the evening’s pieces, its drama punctuated by congas and bongos, glissando trombones and some highly original writing for the strings.

The two other works were from composers of an older generation. John Hopkins’s Double Concerto for trumpet and alto saxophone had plenty of complex full-on work for soloists Marco Blauuw and Marcus Weiss. Although there is nothing especially jazzy about the writing, the way they inter-act inevitably recalled the front line of a jazz group, with the sax often in more of a supporting role.

Diana Burrell’s Resurrection, from 1992, made full use the orchestral brass and was, like the Bray, more programmatic, if a little more opaque in its intent. Alongside a memorable throbbing figure in the low strings and an evocation of pealing bells in the finale, the cor anglais of James Horan was the featured solo instrument here.