Classical review: RSNO Ensemble, Glasgow

The RSNO takes up residence in its new HQ facilities at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this summer. Picture: TSPL
The RSNO takes up residence in its new HQ facilities at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this summer. Picture: TSPL
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A PERSONAL development project by members of the RSNO, originally intended to be kept “under the radar”, turned instead into something very public and very exciting.

RSNO Ensemble - Tramway, Glasgow

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Indeed, the outcome of the players’ week-long out-of-the-box workshop programme with composer/performer Peter Wiegold – Friday’s hour-long, narrated, part-improvised presentation as part of Tramway’s Rip it Up series – was nothing less than a landmark moment for the RSNO.

Why? Well, this is an orchestra that, in recent decades, has played safe with anything remotely cutting edge, even shunned it. There was none of that here. Instead, intense concentration and interaction exuded from the 16-piece mixed ensemble. The electrifying sense of spontaneity, and occasional vulnerability, was compelling, visceral, quite intoxicating.

They worked from a series of single page scores – existing works by Wiegold, John Woolrich and James MacMillan, and new ones by Matilda Brown, Oliver Searle and Aidan O’Rourke – themed, with narration by actress Emily-Jane McNeill, around pages from Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. Wiegold, through prearranged signals and gestures, led us all on a magical musical mystery tour. There were very few uncertain moments, and a weird journey at the end into the unknown by trombonist Dávur Juul Magnussen. But what a liberating experience for all concerned.

Apparently we were witnessing the prototype of a flexible contemporary music ensemble the orchestra is launching this summer once it takes up residence in its new HQ facilities at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. A mouthwatering prospect.

Seen on 22.02.14