Classical review: BBC SSO- Sea Symphony

BBC SSO at the City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: TSPL

BBC SSO at the City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: TSPL

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IT WAS journey’s end on Thursday as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra took the final steps in this year’s Thursday night Glasgow series, and also in its epic exploration with associate guest conductor Andrew Manze of all the Vaughan Williams symphonies.

BBC SSO: Sea Symphony - City Halls, Glasgow

*****

The logic in leaving the Sea Symphony, his earliest and longest, till last was justified in a performance with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and soloists Elizabeth Watts and Mark Stone that was glorious, effusive and rapturously expressive of Walt Whitman’s soul-searching, sea-inspired text.

It’s a work that requires equal measures of calculated precision and broad gesture. Manze’s approach – coupled with the electrifying unanimity in attack and tone of the chorus, its engagement in delivery, the sheer emotive power of both soloists, and the heated expressiveness of the SSO – did exactly that.

Manze has a habit, from time to time, of getting too involved in the nitty-gritty. But in this – as in all his Vaughan Williams interpretations in this series – his input was vital, inspirational and judicious. While exerting taut control of the myriad tempo changes, a sense of swirling ocean current pushed the music on with unstoppable force.

In the first half, soloist Steven Osborne brought to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 1 his distinctive brand of musical vitality and spontaneity, a fresh and spritely view on a popular work, and a dash of whimsy in his own cadenza, which hauled Beethoven’s motifs into uncharted territory, and amazingly found its way back home.

Seen on 15.05.14

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