Classical review: RSNO, Glasgow

THEY say it’s a bad tradesman who blames his tools. But pianist Nikolai Lugansky may well have been justified in doing so on Saturday, faced with a Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Steinway that sounded like it needed serious servicing. It lacked tonal lustre, and seemed generally lifeless.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall


Thankfully Lugansky had the technical and expressive power to overcome that. His performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto was bolt upright and compelling, which the biting, assertive rhetoric of the opening instantly affirmed.

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It was a domineering approach, even in the enchanting lyrical conversation of the slow movement. The RSNO, under Peter Oundjian, offered firm but unchallenging support, keeping its powder dry for those lively interjections that, when they arrived, exploded with swaggering rustic energy.

The rest of the programme explored the contrasting, but equally exquisite, worlds of Rachmaninov and Messiaen. The latter’s Les offrandes oubliées, a sweet-scented prototype of his distinctive later style, combined hushed, mystical timelessness with the ecstatic rhythms and fanfares of the fast-moving central section.

Zestful colours, too, in Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. There’s a world of mysterious allusion in this music, laced with subliminal messages, which Oundjian’s no-nonsense approach left excitingly inconclusive. With the temperature set on high, the end result was a sizzler, which the Brahms encore made no attempt to extinguish.