Peter Scholes and the ACO have a well-established reputation for performing little known works by famous composers, famous works by less well-known composers, almost-unheard works by completely obscure composers and everything in between.
Last Sunday’s final concert for 2017 was no exception. Maurice Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, with its gloriously transparent harmonics which placed schoolgirl harpist Ning Chiang in a well-deserved spotlight, was instantly recognisable, though I confess I had never witnessed it in performance.
But the most extraordinary sounds of the evening were created, if not always written down verbatim, in Concerto for Bassoon and Lower Strings by the Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, a colleague of Schnittke.
Under a soaring and often plaintive bassoon, four cellists and three double bassists created a remarkable palette of sounds ranging from floating glissandi to dense groaning chords. While the score contains many specific notes, other sections make symbolic suggestions only, allowing the players some creative freedom without letting them completely off the leash.
A page from Concerto for Bassoon and Lower Strings by Sofia Gubaidulina
Jacques Ibert’s humorous Capriccio gave the upper strings, elegantly led by Andrew Beer, the opportunity to open as well as close the concert.