First published in The Herald on 10 December, 2014
This was violinist Jack Liebeck’s first concert appearance with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra but he has already recorded with the orchestra: a disc of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and the obscure Third Violin Concerto conducted by Martyn Brabbins was released on Hyperion earlier this year, part of the label’s Romantic Violin Concertos series. Later this week the same team are back in the studio to record two more Bruch rarities – the Second Violin Concerto and the Konzertstück Opus 84. Both were on the programme here.
First published in the Guardian on 5 December, 2014
As a composer, Matthias Pintscher’s music is meticulous, economical and cerebral. As a conductor his approach is similar. The results can be striking when he hones an entire orchestra into one incisive, pristine gesture, but in this all-French programme with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra he kept the ardent flux of the music too much at arm’s length. Pintscher tends to think about his music in visual terms; here his gaze felt clinical and uninvolved.
First published in The Herald on 3 December, 2014
John Butt’s new recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier was never going to be run-of-the-mill. Director of the superlative early music group Dunedin Consort, Gardiner Professor of Music at the University of Glasgow and one of the world’s leading Bach scholars, Butt’s approach to historical research and performance is inseparable – “elliptical” is the term he uses. Whether penning an academic tome on Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity or conducting the spirited sweep of a passion or oratorio, there is brawn, wit and chutzpah behind pretty much everything he does.
First published in The Herald on 13 January, 2012
Matthias Pintscher joined the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as a house conductor in 2010. Last year the orchestra created a brand new role for him: Artist-in-Association. Not ‘composer’, not ‘conductor’; the point is, this Artist does both. “I’m not here as an expert on contemporary music or the Baroque,” he says. “I’m trying to connect the dots in between. Whether I’m conducting Brahms or Schoenberg or my own music — it’s all the same. The BBC Scottish has given me the trust I need to explore. That’s a very rare thing.”
In person Pintscher is as precise and eloquent as the music he writes. The day of our interview he’s arrived on a red-eye from New York and rehearsed for six hours, but still he’s clean shaven and dressed sharp. “Meet at the stage door in four and a half minutes,” he says after rehearsal; I get there in just under five and he’s waiting patiently. Across the road he orders a glass of chilled white and speaks with the kind of Euro-American suave that makes me muddle my words.
First published in The Herald on 14 December, 2011
“Right then! Let’s start with Messiah, which, like a snowball, has collected its own extraordinary history.” Dr John Butt perches at the bar of a crammed Italian caf on Byres Road, chomping through a lunch-time baguette and explaining, in astoundingly vivid and affectionate detail, the liturgical intrigues of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
There are few people better qualified to talk on the subject. Butt is Glasgow University’s Gardiner Professor of Music, an internationally-renowned Bach scholar and — that rare breed of academic — a superb performer as well. In 2010 he joined the ranks of John Eliot Gardiner, András Schiff and Peter Schreier to be was awarded the Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize. (Most of his £10,000 prize money has gone toward restoring his 1975 Triumph Stag, currently in bits somewhere in Rutherglen.) He’s a fine keyboard soloist — look out for his complete Well-Tempered Klavier at the University in March — but his major contribution as a performer has been at the helm of Dunedin Consort. Their performances of Messiah and Christmas Oratorio this week and next promise to be musical highlights of the festive season.