Classical review: BBC SSO/Volko, Glasgow

Principal guest conductor Ilan Volkov is set for a six-day tour with the BBC SSO. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Principal guest conductor Ilan Volkov is set for a six-day tour with the BBC SSO. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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LATER this week, the BBC SSO heads off on a six-day tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, under principal guest conductor Ilan Volkov. Last night’s concert was something of a warm-up, featuring one of the programmes the orchestra is taking with it.

BBC SSO/Volko - City Halls, Glasgow

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It also featured the bouncy Moldovan-born violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, whose bare-footed performance of Bartok’s Violin Concerto No 2 promises to be a veritable tour de force on tour. For what a dazzling work it is.

The comforting major triad it opens with is little more than a tease. From the moment the soloist enters, we are subjected to a seething cauldron of sizzling ideas - those whose sardonic lilt is mildly unnerving; those brimming with lustrous melodic sheen; and those that simply explode with dissonant, crashing effect.

It’s a theatre of extremes, ignited by Bartok’s love of Hungarian folk rhythms, that Kopatchinskaja addressed with mesmerising verve. Volkov’s control of the shifting orchestral underbelly was taut and compelling, though some of the opening moments require to bed in more convincingly.

Before that, some rich-toned string playing in Lizst’s Mephisto Waltz No 1, and a performance well stocked with the myriad colours and moods that ignite this windswept score.

To close the evening, Brahms’ Symphony No 4 was warm-coated and driven with clarity of purpose and texture. The wind ensemble was exemplary in the Andante, the scherzo a veritable breeze. Some ensemble fine-tuning towards the end of the finale would seal the deal.