Written by Michael Tumelty
Published on Thursday 26 February 2015
A few weeks ago, while listening to the Scottish Ensemble’s electrifying new recording of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade For Strings, there was a wee man in my head telling me that this was how they were going to do the pieces in concert on the 24th: that the “as-live” experience of the CD, where the group seems to be in the room with you, was going to translate into a palpable reality in the concert hall. And, dear readers, that is exactly what occurred on Tuesday night in the City Hall.
Where some ensembles go big on the stasis of the Shostakovich, Jonathan Morton’s musicians had the latent intensity of the music pulsing away from the very first bar, so the explosions of savage reality, when they occurred, seemed as logical as they were inevitable.
And I tell you this: as I left the concert, I knew I would be haunted all night by Alison Lawrance’s poignant solo in the finale.
What a supreme cellist she is. But she will have to nudge along in the “haunting” space to accommodate Amy Dickson, whose alto and soprano sax playing in, respectively, Glazunov’s Concerto and Kancheli’s Night Prayers, was so warm, so sublimely mellifluous and expressive, it would have melted stone. I have never heard saxophone playing so seductive and alluring. The Australian lass is a magician, whose playing elevated the music in her hands to a stature where one could only be beguiled.
The wonderfully fibrous, low-calorie, fat-free playing of Morton’s rather amazing string band in Tchaikovsky’s Serenade rounded off a near-perfect night of live music at its most virile and vital.