Classical review: RSNO & Steven Osborne, Glasgow

Under the direction of conductor Peter Oundjian the RSNO offered a mixed response. Picture: Jane Barlow
Under the direction of conductor Peter Oundjian the RSNO offered a mixed response. Picture: Jane Barlow
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I’M NOT exactly sure what place Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro had in this RSNO programme, given that the other three works – Stravinsky’s Firebird, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G and Respighi’s Pines of Rome – shared a common fascination for exotic musical flavourings.

RSNO & Steven Osborne - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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But it was there as an opener for the RSNO strings, whose performance – with section principals as the solo quartet, under the direction of Peter Oundjian – was disappointingly routine, and too earthbound for music that lives by its impulsive, soulful heartbeat.

The mood changed dramatically, though, with Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite. Now the band seemed hungry and motivated, the whole essence of the score – Stravinsky’s rich and intense marriage of rhythm, melody and colour – bursting into life, either in the stillness of the Berceuse or the feverish excitement of the Infernal Dance.

Not every aspect of the woodwind ensemble clicked into place, but eagerness and passion compensated.

The second half raised no such reservations. Pianist Steven Osborne took the driving seat in the Ravel concerto, a performance that opened up intriguing new vistas in this short but jam-packed masterpiece.

Osborne embraced its quixotic mood changes with electrifying precision and imagination, colouring some of Ravel’s softer tonal shades, not just the obvious bluesy harmonies, with a captivating weirdness. A great performance, followed appropriately by a soft jazz encore.

The extravagance of Resphigi’s Pines of Rome was a well-chosen finale, its expanded orchestra – organ, recorded birdsong and gallery brass – rounding off the evening in glorious, resplendent style.

Seen on 22.11.14