Opera review: RSNO, RSNO Centre & Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Contributed
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Contributed
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LAST WEEK was more than routine for the RSNO. In addition to its weekly seasonal programmes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Tuesday was a monumental red letter day: the orchestra’s first public performance in its magnificent new headquarters within Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and more especially the RSNO Centre’s 600-seater multi-purpose auditorium.

RSNO: Under the Skin

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Rating: ****

RSNO: Tchaikovsky Five

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Rating: ****

It was an ideal opportunity to launch the new “Under the Skin” series, in which music broadcaster Sandy Burnett takes a composer’s music to pieces with the help of the RSNO’s live extracts and helpful close-up images on screen. Tuesday’s subject for lively investigation was Tchaikovsky.

But the real star was the fantastic new facility, a highly adaptable performance space which has absolutely stunning acoustics. I have never heard the RSNO sound so alive and electrifying than they did in these colourful Tchaikovsky excerpts.

And there seemed no limit to the volume of sound the studio can accommodate, the final blazing moments of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony comfortable contained within its high ceiling. This facility can only inspire the orchestra to uncharted heights.

It was back to the main GRCH auditorium on Saturday, where the full version of the Fifth Symphony was an ultimately thrilling climax to a concert that saw the orchestra in much fitter form that the previous week’s underwhelming Mahler 2.

Peter Oundjian seemed more at home on the podium with this programme, establishing a genuine connection with the orchestra in Borodin’s Prince Igor Overture, from its sombre languishing opening to the brilliance and opulence that ensue.

Brett Dean took to the stage as soloist in his own Viola Concerto. Written a decade ago, it’s a highly atmospheric three-movement work, the main focus of which is the elusive and dreamy final movement.

Dean, a former member of the Berlin Philharmonic, played it with astonishing dexterity and nuance, though it’s a work that is curiously old-fashioned in places.

No shortage of that in the Tchaikovsky, which, beyond its undernourished opening, burst vividly into life in a well-paced, richly-coloured, emotionally-charged performance.