The BBC Scottish Symphony seemed in rather variable form in the first of them, under Martyn Brabbins. Their account of Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) sounded on the cool, even uncommitted, side, though correct enough. Their performance of The Planets was rather effective, with well chosen tempi from Brabbins. But this sequence of bold, sonorous, images, orchestrated with inimitable brilliance, depth and transparency, is difficult to sink. Yet the fading ladies of the New London Chamber Choir at the end of "Neptune" were too soon cut off - maybe in apprehension at the approach of "Pluto", with its arid winds and lacerating dissonances.
However, the real casualty was Tippett's luxuriant Piano Concerto (1955) - through no fault of Steven Osborne, who played with his usual skill and sensitivity. Too much of it here sounded like an orchestral read-through.
The second programme was a BBC Concert Orchestra night under their principal conductor, Barry Wordsworth. The opening item, a brazenly patriotic suite by Lambert from his wartime film-score for Merchant Seamen will have induced painful nostalgia in listeners old enough to remember Saturday morning "pictures" in the 1940s. The French virtuoso Philippe Graffin next championed Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's recently revived Violin Concerto (1911), a pleasantly Edwardian synthesis of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Elgar, weakened by its too-unvaried pacing.
A stentorian rendition by the baritone Mark Stone, backed by the men of The London Chorus, of Stanford's Songs of the Sea (1904), opened the second half. And so to the Enigma Variations. Here the relatively modest forces of the BBC Concert Orchestra strings allowed Elgar's lovely woodwind detail to come through with some exceptional clarity.Reuse content