Classical review: RSNO/Thomas Søndergård

SOME concerts are destined to live long in the memory, and this was one of them.

RSNO's principal guest conductor Thomas Søndergård. Picture: Contributed
RSNO's principal guest conductor Thomas Søndergård. Picture: Contributed

RSNO/Thomas Søndergård

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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*****

It was partly the joyously adventurous repertoire – what turned out to be thrillingly effective combination of lesser-played Sibelius (the Sixth Symphony); a bang-up-to-date but thoroughly appealing concerto (Magnus Lindberg’s sparkling 2002 Clarinet Concerto); and a crowd-pleasing warhorse in Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony.

It was partly the hugely charismatic soloist in clarinettist Kari Kriikku, dedicatee of the Lindberg Concerto, who performed the piece with vigour and enormous wit, prancing around the orchestra to duet with different players and delivering the hugely virtuosic clarinet line as if it were a jazz solo. It was partly the RSNO on exceptional form, with a gloriously full yet focused string sound in the Sibelius and some touchingly rendered solos in the Tchaikovsky Pathétique.

But a lot of it was down to the clear, crisp, energetic direction of the RSNO’s principal guest conductor Thomas Søndergård. His Sibelius Sixth was brisk and dramatic, with textures that glinted with light, and his beautifully shaped, expertly paced Tchaikovsky Pathétique refused to wallow in misery, finding more emotional sincerity in an elegant, unforced account as a result.

Not everything was perfect – ensemble was sometimes a bit ragged in the Sibelius, and balance wasn’t ideal in the Lindberg, with Kriikku sometimes drowned out by the orchestra. But it felt like an evening of true discoveries – of provocative but rewarding new music, and of fresh, revelatory perspectives on familiar pieces – and is there anything more inspirational than that?

Seen on 06.03.15