Some of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s most special (and most popular) nights come when a member of the orchestra acts as soloist in a concerto. All orchestras do this from time to time, of course, but it’s something of an SCO speciality, and the benefits it brings are obvious. There’s a deeper sense of camaraderie than when a superstar special guest jets in – after all, the orchestra are supporting one of their own – and the orchestral musicians and the audience can both sense it. 

André Cebrián
© Ryan Buchanan

This concert was the first time I’ve heard André Cebrián step up to the hotspot. He has been Principal Flute since early 2020, though Covid put a dampener on his first year or so. He played Mozart’s Flute Concerto no. 2 in D major with brightness, energy and a tremendous sense of fun. Like the orchestral strings, he didn’t use much vibrato, and that gave his sound an extra air of agility and flexibility, which was great for the athleticism of the outer movements. His airborne cadenzas were terrific, and his witty ornamentations and daring tricks with tempi gave the finale a real shot in the arm. 

That extra kick seemed to be more down to him than to conductor Joana Carneiro, however. She followed Cebrián’s lead in the fast sections but couldn’t inject energy where it was most needed, into the static slow movement. That Adagio, one of Mozart’s less inspired moments, needed something more than time-keeping to give it a lift, and it felt like little more than an interlude here.

I strongly suspect that Stravinsky’s Danses Concertantes is one of those pieces that’s a lot more fun to play than to listen to. Its wiry textures and bouncy rhythms are intermittently interesting, but it has a whiff of him rehashing several elements of his neoclassical phase, and doesn’t show the composer at his most engaging. So while the orchestra played it with impressive precision and rhythmic  fluency, I found my fingers drumming after several elaborate cross-rhythms too many.

Joana Carneiro
© Dave Weiland

Carneiro’s podium movements were larger than life and slightly exhausting to watch. She scythed through the air with big-limbed gestures, and the violence of some of her actions completely belied the softness that she could draw from the orchestra. That disjunct was most obvious in Debussy’s Children’s Corner, which saw some oversized gestures correspond to some delicately observed playing, especially in the soft opening ripples of Doctor Gradus and the sleek double bass duet of Jimbo’s Lullaby. She did bring appropriate energy to Mozart’s Idomeneo overture, with big natural brass sounds and assertive timpani, but she took it more slowly than we’ve come to expect, and her way with the ballet music was rather flat in places, too. Only in the last movement, where Mozart wheels out the big guns to finish the opera in style, did she draw everything together and finish with the bang that the composer surely intended.