Music: BBC SSO

Erin Wall Canadian opera soprano

Erin Wall Canadian opera soprano

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Every conductor promotes his own enthusiasms. One passion of the BBC SSO’s Thomas Dausgaard is fellow Dane, Rued Langgaard, the so-called “lone composer” of 16 symphonies, 430 works in total, active during the first half of the 20th century, whose eccentric late Romantic style bears the mark of a hyperactive obsessive.

City Halls, Glasgow ***

On Thursday, we heard the UK premiere of his Symphony No 6, The Heaven-Rending. Written in the 1920s and 30s, there’s a sense of instant gratification in the stark, steely way Langgaard unleashes his uncompromising thematic ideas, ruthlessly casting them aside once emotionally squeezed dry.

The moods are volatile and extreme, and the piece’s stylistic identity is largely governed by icy modal deference to Nielsen, all of which clearly struck a chord with Dausgaard. His physical enthusiasm translated into an aptly feverish and brutally intense performance; the best, in fact, of an otherwise tempered evening of Romantic excess.

In both Wagner excerpts – the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, and Prelude from Parsifal – there were sublime, breathtaking moments, in which Dausgaard played as magically with the silences as he did with the music’s timeless transcendence, but all too often at the expense of forward momentum, as if the vital thread holding these delicate strands together had slackened. Critical wind ensemble entries were frustratingly ragged.

Soprano Erin Wall’s appearance for Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs was largely sun-filled and voluptuous, but untypically under-projected. One audience member ruined the serene ending with an explosion of premature applause. Hopefully tonight’s audience will display greater musical sensitivity.

KEN WALTON

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