Concert review: RSNO - American Festival II, Glasgow

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IN THE second of the RSNO’s American Festival concerts, the composers were well-known, but not all of the music.

RSNO: American Festival II

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

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So while the fresh fragrances of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring Suite” provided a familiar opener, the rest of the programme introduced us to examples of Samuel Barber, John Adams, and some more Copland, whose rarity added a bold pioneering spirit to the occasion.

But what really lit up the evening was the double appearance of pianist Xiayin Wang who, in her RSNO debut, chose to perform the piano concertos of Barber and Copland with only the interval separating them. She is an extraordinary talent, full of energy, full of wit, but most incredibly for her size, able to communicate levels of tonal power that crowned these performances with lustre

and charisma.

These are two very different works, neither of them typical of each composer. Where you’d expect a deep-seated Romanticism from Barber, he delves deep into dissonant modernism. As for Copland’s jazz-fuelled concerto, its fitful eccentricities push the bounds of vicious parody. Wang’s performances captured those distinctive qualities, adding spontaneity to the arresting mix, and the bonus of a snappy encore - Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” In both concertos, conductor Peter Oundjian gave malleable support, drawing exquisite sounds from his orchestra. Not that they were missing from “Appalachian Spring”, which oozed colour and subtlety. Adams’s “Doctor Atomic Symphony” - music distilled from his opera of the same name - was perhaps less totally engaging as a work, but crunchingly effective as a climax to the evening.