Music review: RSNO, John Storgårds & Baiba Skride, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Every single note the RSNO played on Thursday truly meant something. They were responding without exception to the forceful personality of John Storgårds, a conductor who knows his own mind and who communicates his thoughts to the musicians with knowing intent and fiery conviction. The result? One of the most exciting orchestral performances I've heard this season from any Scottish orchestra.

John Storgards, taking aim
John Storgards, taking aim

RSNO, John Storgårds & Baiba Skride, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall *****

Where did Storgårds find such opulent magic in the string section, particularly the lustrous quality of the first violins that coloured the opening bars of Bernard Herrman’s Love Scene from the Hitchcock film Vertigo? It’s a piece of stoked-up Wagner, deliciously dense and achingly beautiful, and an atmospherically perfect prequel to Korngold’s Violin Concerto, with its reuse of selected film themes by the Hollywood composer.

There were wonderful surprises, too, in that concerto, which Latvian soloist Baiba Skride injected, somewhat idiosyncratically, with a bullish panache. Easeful virtuosity and sensitivity sat side by side in the central Romanze; then the sizzling impetuosity of the finale, explosive and ebullient at every turn.

Equally compelling was Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, Storgårds stamping his own indelible impression on its familiar pages. The big picture was cohesive and effusive, never predictable, but always on message.

It was a breathtaking, high-definition performance, en-riched by such treats as Christopher Gough’s liquid horn solo, a firebrand wind ensemble, ravishing string sound and a brass section that made its burnished presence known without overpowering everyone else. An orchestra on fire!