Classical review: RSNO Chamber Series, Glasgow

Picture: TSPL

Picture: TSPL

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THERE’S some music that positively blooms in the resonant, boomy acoustic of a cavernous church – a Baroque concerto, for example, or a piece of modern, meditative choral music.

RSNO Chamber Series - St Mary’s Cathedral, glasgow

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Then there’s other music that really doesn’t – like, unfortunately, most of the repertoire in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s otherwise superb string chamber recital in St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow.

It wasn’t that the playing wasn’t good – in places it was exceptionally fine, beautifully balanced and delivered with passion and seemingly unstoppable energy. It was just that much of the time, you simply couldn’t hear it clearly.

Take the opener, the exquisite Sextet from Richard Strauss’s opera Capriccio. The six RSNO string players gave a ravishing account, beautifully balanced between formal clarity and heart-on-sleeve indulgence – first violinist James Clark was especially fine with some nicely evocative portamento. But with the several-second decay of the space, Strauss’s lush harmonies tended to muddy into a generic-sounding mush.

There was plenty of detail that went unheard in the Mozart C minor string quintet, K406, which came next – in the follow-the-leader canonic minuet, for example, it was hard to decipher who was leading, who dragging behind. But it was a seething, passionate performance of an angry, turbulent work, with strong contrasts and gloriously assertive playing – even if the acoustics tended to smooth over the account’s sharp corners.

The closing Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence was a masterclass in energy conservation, building from an already tempestuous opening to thrilling, breathless conclusion – and so vivid that it broke through any acoustic difficulties.

Seen on 23.02.14

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