Classical review: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Picture: Contributed

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Picture: Contributed

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SELDOM can there have been such a contrast between concerto soloist and orchestra. And such a compelling, telling contrast at that.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra | Rating: ***** | City Halls, Glasgow

The concerto in question was Shostakovich’s First for violin – a harrowing work, conveying the composer’s typically ambiguous fury at the horrors of the Soviet system. The soloist was Russian violinist Boris Brovtsyn, who delivered a deeply personal account, honest, raw and vulnerable, almost singing from his instrument, such was the flexibility and passion of his playing.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Vassily Sinaisky – drafted in following publicised conductor Alexander Vedernikov being indisposed – were far more controlled, however, at times even detached. It seemed a frustrating, even baffling combination at first, but by the end it felt like a stroke of genius, setting Brovtsyn’s searingly emotional playing against something far more stark and uncaring. It’s hard to imagine a performance that plunges deeper into the dark heart of the piece – so unflinchingly that the well-deserved rapturous ovation Brovtsyn received at the end seemed horribly out of place.

It was a hard act to follow, but Sinaisky’s perceptive reading of the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition did just the job – perceptive for its hugely effective if sometimes surprising pacing (Sinaisky’s promenades felt more like trots), and also for its glorious, unabashed drama. The BBC SSO brass were on exceptionally sonorous form, and there was a wonderful heaviness in the strings for the trundling ox-cart Bydlo and a cataclysmic Hut on Fowl’s Legs. An evening of surprises, and revelations.

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