Written by Michael Tumelty
Published on Thursday 10 December
It probably wouldn’t be of interest to everybody, but one of the striking aspects of the Scottish Ensemble’s annual “candle-lit” concert, touring this week and landing at Wellington Church, neighbouring Glasgow University, on Wednesday night, was the fact that the group had a guest leader and director, with Matthew Truscott taking over from Jonathan Morton for the week.
Everything changed in the sound, projection and character of the music. Not “better”, I must stress, just wholly different. Morton is an extremely-concentrated, intensely-focused player. Truscott is light on his (musical) feet, perhaps a bit more relaxed, maybe more gregarious. These qualities teemed through the Bach elements in his programme with superb, hugely-enjoyable performances of the A minor Violin Concerto, a breathtakingly-fleet account of the Double Violin Concerto, with Colin Scobie on the second violin (and watch out for Scobie’s name: he’s a stunner) culminating in a whizzing group performance of Brandenburg Three, which was so fleet, so fast and so aerated that it almost took flight – I had to suppress a “Wheeeee!” that wanted to break loose during the finale. And at another extreme, the ensemble’s flowing, gently-logical accumulation during their playing of the composer’s Contrapunctus 19, with the music just evaporating into the ether at the moment Bach is said to have died, mid-sentence, as it were, stopped my heart, as it always does.
As for the rest, Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, with its thudding heartbeat, worked its usual time-stopping magic, while Sofia Gubaidulina’s Bach meditation would have made an effective film score. But not everything gelled. Too much Pärt: there’s always, ultimately, a “less would be more” issue with minimalism, the “holy” brand or otherwise.