Glasgow-born Martin Suckling is the SCO’s composer in association, and the Orchestra boldly commissioned his set of miniatures Six Speechless Songs for its 40th anniversary concert in 2014. It was good to re-hear the work on its own terms outside the pomp of that event – and good, too, that this likeable, provocative piece was getting a repeat performance so soon after its high-profile premiere. And like Henze’s, it feels in Suckling’s music that every note counts and has its rightful place, something Knussen’s incisive direction served to highlight. It’s exquisitely orchestrated – from chattering, Messiaen-like birdsong in the opener, to the mournful bells tolling across the orchestra in the fourth piece, to the shrill piping of two piccolos that closes the work – for a relatively small band, and covers a remarkable range of moods and emotions, intimate and engaging. Knussen’s account felt more sparkling and extrovert than Robin Ticciati’s careful craftsmanship at the premiere performance, but no less vividly detailed.
— David Kettle