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Royal Concert Hall, GlasgowPianist-composer Gabriela Montero premiered Babel, a cry against the ‘madness’ wracking her home country, alongside uniquely optimistic Shostakovich Tyranny and repression of freedom, explained artistic director Jonathan Morton in his onstage introduction, were the starting point for this latest programme from the Scottish Ensemble and pianist-composer Gabriela Montero. This was another typically individual piece of programming from the group that, in the last few years, has carved itself a niche exploring visual and theatrical ways to present its programmes. This concert kept the visual aspect low-key, although the two large black screens that the players wheeled around the stage between numbers (and sometimes during) was a distraction at times. Theatrics aside, the strength of any concert programme ultimately lies with the music. Here, following an opening improvisation at the piano from Montero and a response from the string players, the ensemble performed Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, not the brutal Eighth Quartet but the less familiar 10th, enlarged for string ensemble by Rudolf Barshai. This is an uncharacteristically optimistic work from the composer, at times almost folk inflected and without the oppressive sense of darkness that characterises the last quartets. Continue reading...