Classical review: RSNO: Beethoven’s First, Albert Hall, Stirling

The RSNO has been out and about in Stirling this week with a series of events aimed at youth and community involvement.

RSNO: Beethoven’s First

Albert Hall, Stirling

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In last night’s Albert Hall concert, however, the orchestra just played, while the rest of us simply sat and enjoyed it to the full.

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At the helm was Christian Kluxen, nearing the end of his assistant conductorship of the RSNO. In a thoroughly entertaining, and by no means run-of-the-mill programme, he revealed a connection with the band that was charismatic, confident and impressively competent. What’s more, his easy-going manner with the audience, through a series of intelligent, chatty introductions added warmth to the evening’s music.

Lars Erik Larrson’s Pastoral Suite proved a welcoming opener, Kluxen allowing its soft-grained expressiveness to unfold with liquid charm, not least in the gorgeous central Romance.

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Then an extraordinary work by Ligeti – his iridescent Concert Românesc. Its whirlwind virtuosity, fuelled by the composer’s unfettered use of brazen, Rumanian folk techniques, fired sparks of vitality and brilliance in the RSNO you don’t always hear. The chemistry was explosive, the strings at one point sounding like a genuine peasant band on a wild night out.

The spirit of the Ligeti persisted in Kluxen’s fast, furious, but never uncontrolled reading of Beethoven’s “Symphony No 1”. But not before the strings proved their worth again in Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances, topped by swashbuckling solos from leader Maya Iwabuchi.

As an encore, Sibelius’s Valse Triste was a valedictory delight.

Kenneth Walton