Classical review - RSNO: Ein Heldenleben, Glasgow

Ingrid Fliter's Rossini sparkled, but Beethoven fell a little flat. Picture: Complimentary
Ingrid Fliter's Rossini sparkled, but Beethoven fell a little flat. Picture: Complimentary
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HOW often do we hear novelists admit that they write best about what they know? Plenty of composers have adopted the same approach, none more openly, perhaps, than Richard Strauss, and no more obviously than in his autobiographical tone poem Ein Heldenleben, “a hero’s life”.

RSNO: Ein Heldenleben - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

****

This wonderful, fulsome example of musical egotism was the ultimate treat in Saturday’s programme, as big a personal statement as Strauss ever made, given the size and might of the orchestra, and the loquacious big licks meted out under the baton of Peter Oundjian.

Oundjian eased us into the music with a spoken introduction, out of which flowed a performance that was unegotistic and clearly intent on allowing Strauss’s ravishing melodies, his acerbic figurative jabs at the critics, his nostalgic references to earlier works, and the beautiful twilight resignation of the closing bars, to speak for themselves.

RSNO leader Maya Iwabuchi delivered the virtuoso violin solo (Strauss’s volatile wife) with consummate precision, musicality and flair. If anything, Oundjian could have let more heat into the performance, the tautness of his beat eliciting sharp definition of textures, but sometimes stifling – as in the opening bars – the music’s natural opulence.

We could have done with more of the latter in Ingrid Fliter’s solo performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4.

Her visible physicality didn’t always translate into warmth, depth and evenness of tone, leaving the music disappointingly flat, unlike the bristling personality that set the concert opener, Rossini’s overture The Silken Ladder, alight.

KEN WALTON

Seen on 29.03.14