Classical review: BBC SSO/Vaughan Williams, Glasgow

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on stage at its home in Glasgow City Halls
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on stage at its home in Glasgow City Halls
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With the wind howling, the rain pelting and the temperature noticeably dipping, a performance of Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica seemed entirely in tune.

BBC SSO/Vaughan Williams - City Halls, Glasgow

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Under Andrew Manze’s direction, it brought together the combined forces of the wordless ladies’ of the Glasgow Chamber Choir, soloist Katherine Broderick, and an orchestra loaded with every extra timbre you could think of – the whooshing wind machine, glittering percussion, and the organ that ought to have lifted the whole aural experience to a different level.

Unfortunately, the choice of instrument here – a hideously one-dimensional electronic organ – spoiled that ultimate effect. Oh, to have heard this in the Usher Hall? A shame, because Manze’s feel for the entire symphonic edifice, with its filmic pace, it’s chilled landscape, it’s loaded imagery and mysterious, exotic colourings, was both epic and beautifully detailed.

It followed a first half that had just about as many exciting moments. Yet it took a movement, at least, for Tippett’s charming Divertimento on Sellinger’s Round to settle comfortably.

Pianist Shai Wosner, despite a tendency to throw away phrase endings, gave a crisp, fresh performance of Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No 20”, strengthened by a heavyweight Beethoven cadenza, as well as one of his own.

But he worked well with the orchestra, matching playfulness with fine subtleties of touch.