Music review: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

Pianist Yulianna Avdeeva, a soloist with the BBC SSO, whose performance of the Tchaikovsky was a blistering tour de force
Pianist Yulianna Avdeeva, a soloist with the BBC SSO, whose performance of the Tchaikovsky was a blistering tour de force
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The BBC SSO is off to Japan with principal conductor Thomas Dausgaard for six concerts in Tokyo and Osaka, some of which are part of the BBC’s first ever Japan Proms season. Recent concerts here have served as a dress rehearsal, including Thursday’s monumental coupling of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 and Sibelius’ Symphony No 2.

BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow ****

Central to this programme was the phenomenal 34-year-old Russian pianist, Yulianna Avdeeva, whose performance of the Tchaikovsky was a blistering tour de force, meaty and authoritative, with all-consuming musicality that crafted every melodic thread with natural charisma.

The opening made complete sense (how often does it sound like mere rhetorical bluster?), the contrast between its solid girth and the lighthearted delicacy of later themes imbuing the granite-like proportions of the entire movement with conversational scintillation. Here, as in the remaining movements, Avdeeva called the shots, intensely lyrically in the andante, dynamically thrusting in the dizzy finale.

The SSO responded pungently, just as they did after the interval in the Sibelius, a symphony that lives by the originality of its raw colourings and ingenious structuring. Dausgaard moulded it with a powerful combination of the theatrical and the abstract. Textures were ripe to the core, the big picture wholesome with a hint of fragility.

Dausgaard also applied fresh objectivity to the opener, Peter Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. A hint of Bartókian primitivism in its folksy dance tunes was an illuminating touch, if a tad mannered.

KEN WALTON