Butt Combines the Bachs and Mozart in a Fascinating Chronological Journey

11/12/2015

 JS Bach, WF Bach, CPE Bach, Mozart: Peter Whelan (bassoon), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, John Butt (conductor), Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 10.12.2015 (SRT)

J. S. Bach: Suite (Ouverture) No. 4 in D
W. F. Bach: Sinfonia in D minor “Adagio and Fuge”
C. P. E. Bach: Bassoon Concerto in A minor
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor

John Butt is more frequently seen in Scotland presiding over his own Dunedin Consort, but I can think of no better guide to take us on a musical and chronological journey from Bach Senior to Mozart.  Partnering him with the SCO made for fascinating and deeply involving listening.  As an opener, they played Bach’s Fourth Suite on modern instruments but with period technique, creating a fabulously bright brass sound with timpani that were unafraid to thunder and wiry (vibrato-less) strings that were nevertheless full of heart and character.  Those same strings took an impressive lead in Friedemann’s D minor fugue, having been preceded by a limpid flute-led Adagio that sounded so characteristic of the Ancien Regime that it might have been written for a European period drama.

Emmanuel’s concerto exists in versions for several different solo instruments, but whatever version you play it still rings with the composer’s trademark flair and refusal to be boxed in.  How lucky we are that last year’s anniversary drew him more closely to our attention!  The opening was typically daring, with syncopated octaves that leapt out of the instruments, and it seldom let up for the rest of the concerto.  It is praise enough that Peter Whelan could hold his own in such a musical storm; better still that he did it with such virtuosic skill.  His repeated feats of derring-do consisted of octave leaps, stratospheric top notes, chromatic progressions that came from nowhere and dazzling semiquaver runs.  He stood, for the first movement, with legs apart as though about to go into battle which, in a sense, he was!  His languid Gluck encore was well chosen because so well contrasted.

Thus Mozart 40 felt like the end of a journey where you could hear the influences of Mozart’s admired predecessors.  From the very beginning, the strings conjured up an atmosphere of febrile intensity, shimmering and frigid, and the finale sounded turbocharged, full of restless energy that was always looking for an outlet.  Butt took the slow movement at quite a lick, more a one-in-a-bar Allegretto than an Andante, but it fitted well the symphony’s atmosphere, most especially the lower strings, whose bass seemed to turn with remarkable ease from a comforting cushion into a veiled threat.

Simon Thompson

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival at the Snape Maltings in June __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s 2019 30th Anniversary Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Clara Schumann Festival at St John’s Smith Square – 22 to 24 February 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Venus Unwrapped: Kings Place’s Year-Long Focus on Women Composers __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Buenos Aires in 2019 – Largely Traditional __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! VENEZUELAN MUSICIAN GABRIELA MONTERO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Arthur Butterworth and David Jennings Premieres in Lancaster on 1 March __________________________________
  • NEW! Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream Ballet Gala Night on 7 April __________________________________
  • NEW! London To Hear Long-Overdue Revival of Parry’s Oratorio Judith in April __________________________________
  • NEW! Russian Ballet Icons Gala 31 March 2019 at the London Coliseum __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! Ik zeg: NU: I say now, now … an interview with Richard Causton __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! SOME OF SEEN AND HEARD’S REVIEWERS LOOK BACK AT 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month