Classical review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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RUSSIAN music inevitably ignites the passions in a symphony orchestra, even when the repertoire is as off the mainstream as this intriguing programme by the BBC SSO under Ilan Volkov.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

*****

The clincher was Glazunov’s ballet score The Seasons, the multi-coloured culmination of an evening’s musical journey that began with extracts from Shostakovich’s late score for the 1970 film King Lear and Edison Denisov’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s emotionally-charged Songs and Dances of Death.

Volkov established his grip from the outset. In the Shostakovich, with its references to the language of the Tenth Symphony, his incisive beat was met with a needle-sharp response, notably from the on-fire brass but equally in the searing, glowing precision of the strings. Like most film music, there was a sense of incompleteness without the visual dimension, but this performance went all the way in conjuring up a vivid mental picture.

The Mussorgsky introduced the Russian bass Yuri Vorobiev to SSO audiences for the first time. He’s a big lad, with a voice to match. But there was subtlety to match the vocal magnitude, like the eloquent dialogue of conflicting emotions that enliven the Lullaby, and the restive ecstasy of the Serenade.

But it was the Glazunov, music of utter gratification in the Tchaikovskian sense, that provided unrelenting thrills. Even Winter, with its chilly scenes, bore a sumptuous warmth in this scorching performance, the SSO tuttis radiant and cheery, the all-important solos handled with flawless virtuosity, and the closing Autumn Bacchanal the ultimate sizzling send off.

Seen on 05.02.15