Classical review: RSNO: Oundjian conducts Walton, Glasgow

William's Walton's Symphony No 1 proved to be no problem for Peter Oundjian and the RSNO. Picture: Jane Barlow
William's Walton's Symphony No 1 proved to be no problem for Peter Oundjian and the RSNO. Picture: Jane Barlow
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William Walton’s symphonies don’t get out much. They’re not the most popular with audiences, as Saturday’s modest Glasgow attendance at the Royal Scottish National Opera’s performance of the Symphony No 1 proved.

RSNO: Oundjian conducts Walton - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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They’re difficult to play, given that Walton, wrestling here in the 1930s with prolonged symphonic procedure, made no concessions to technical challenge.

So it was particularly pleasing to witness Peter Oundjian and the RSNO take up the gauntlet and deliver what was a convincingly tight, intense and ultimately triumphant performance of a work that cannot simply play itself, but requires careful thought, rigorous discipline and all-round collective virtuosity.

It was a power-driven approach, harnessing the volatile volcanic undertones that pervade, to varying degrees and in different guises, all four movements. The inexorable intellectual struggle of the opening Allegro; the brutish wit of the Presto con malizia; the bittersweet melancholia of the Andante (with chamber-scored opening that could almost be Mahler); and a Finale whose complex monumental fugue sews together Walton’s premonitory wash of prototype fingerprints.

All bore compelling impact under Oundjian’s taut leadership. It was certainly the most outstanding performance of the evening.

Pianist Richard Goode’s impressively poised and poetically articulate performance of Mozart’s G major Piano Concerto, K453 –almost too personally contained at times, and near-ruinously accompanied by his own humming – came a close second, and the opening account of Wagner’s Tannhauser was awash with spine-chilling climaxes, but suffered a little from ragged entries and thinnish top strings.

Seen on 8.2.14