City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

SCO play "Generations of Bach", Queen's Hall, Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 11 December 2015

Peter Whelan plays bassoon
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Queen's Hall
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
John Butt (conductor)
Peter Whelan (bassoon) Members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Running time: 

"Generations of Bach" began with a composition by the best-known Bach, Johann Sebastian, the prolific Baroque composer who fathered twenty children (although only ten survived till adulthood).

In this programme the SCO chose to perform one of his orchestral suites – Suite (Ouverture) No 4 in D. The conductor John Butt, who conducted enthusiastically standing from the harpsichord, is an authority on Baroque music. A hallmark of Bach’s works is precision, making him a notoriously difficult composer to perform, requiring musicians to concentrate relentlessly on the score. In this composition, the strident brass section it is thought to have been added later. The orchestra sounded hesitant when they first began but soon after gathered momentum and got into their stride.

One of Bach’s sons, Wilhelm Friedemann, was the next composer on the programme with his delightful Sinfonia in D minor. A successful court composer, he wrote many compositions for the flute which is featured, along with the bassoon, in this Sinfonia. The flautists - Alison Mitchell and Joanna Shaw – and the bassoon player Alison Green gave an enchanting, flawless performance.

There are not many concertos written for the bassoon but perhaps J S Bach’s second surviving son Carl Philipp Emanuel was influenced to write his Bassoon concerto in A minor as it was a favourite instrument of his father. Peter Whelan, the Principal Bassoon player with the SCO, was the soloist. His runs in the first movement were superb, and his breath control was astonishing. It was a superb performance and as an encore he adapted, specially for the concert, Gluck’s ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirit’ in which he featured violas, cellos and bass.

The final composition on the programme was Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G minor. Under the guidance of John Butt, the strings launched into this familiar symphony with a delightful lightness of touch and created a beautiful, sensitive interpretation in the Andante. All in all, it was a superlative performance of this symphony by these talented musicians.

Friday 11 December: Glasgow City Halls, 7.30pm. £15-£29