October 6, 2008

Music Review: Scottish Symphony Orchestra

By Kenneth Walton



LIKE most "Hear and Now" recordings by the BBC SSO - foremost intended to satisfy the radio dimension of the programme - the live concert format can be a little shambolic. No surprises, then, that this long 60th birthday tribute to composer Nigel Osborne was as much a spectacle of scene-shifting as of performance.

Thankfully, though, Osborne's music is, in so many ways, beautiful. And in two tellingly representative works - Woman, a compilation of arias by female characters from some of his operas; and East, a kind of picture-postcard collection of impressions from his involvement in and love of eastern Europe - the reflective mood seemed wholly appropriate to the occasion.

Woman did not come over as powerfully as it might have, partly as a result of the ill-judged balance between soloists Monica Brett- Crowther and Elizabeth McCormack and an occasionally overpowering SSO under Clement Power.

East, on the other hand, with its spicy allusions to geographical hot spots in Osborne's eventful life, hit the button with music that gleefully overrides stylistic barriers, yet somehow speaks with coherent unity.

But in Georgian composer Marina Adamia's The Birth of Enkidu, Power showed his true worth in a performance that elicited its moving subtleties.

In the midst of all that, the SSO's Scott Dickinson and Andrew Berridge made two violas sound like ten in Osborne's ethereal duo, Transformations I.

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