Scottish Chamber Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IT was probably as much a fortuitous coincidence as careful planning, but Francois Leleux’s concerts with the SCO were the ideal occasion on which to launch the orchestra’s new season which features a feast of French music as well as a number of performances where the soloist and conductor are the one person, and a year that again showcases individual talents within the ensemble.

Leleux is one of the regular guests with an increasing association with the orchestra, exemplified here in the little encore of music from Bizet’s Carmen with principal flautist Alison Mitchell that followed his performance of Lebrun’s Oboe Concerto No1. She had been the soloist in the first half performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Halil, a work dedicated to a young flautist killed in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. With her colleagues in the flutes in the choir stalls, and a veritable batterie of percussion, this iconoclastic piece creates a very individual soundworld which was not only an early contribution to marking the centenary of the composer’s birth, but also sat very well with the older music around it.

Mitchell was, of course, superb, but rather less flamboyant in performance that Leleux himself, whose theatrical soliloquy in the first movement of the concerto deserved such a description rather than a simple “cadenza.”

He is not an especially demonstrative conductor, but the works that opened and closed the concert, Faure’s Pelleas et Melisande Suite and Bizet’s Symphony in C, are both examples of those composers are their most colourfully melodic, and were ideally suited to the forces on stage. The former contains one of Faure’s best-known tunes, while the latter simply fizzes with youthful energy from the first bar to the last.