As with actors, musicians can be seriously miscast. Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima simply isn’t cut out for Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. Or so it seemed throughout his impetuous RSNO solo appearance at the weekend: a shambolic clash of minds, in which his slapdash eccentricities found conductor Thomas Sondergård and his orchestra battling to keep things on an even keel.
RSNO & Giovanni Sollima ***
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
You could see what Sollima was up to: exaggerating the fluidity of Dvorak’s brooding melodies; injecting extra Bohemian spice into the already hot rhythmic flavourings; hyping it up big time. But all he achieved, even ignoring those moments when his intonation went AWOL, was to force unnatural histrionic distortions on a score that destabilised its soulful integrity.
The sad thing is, Sollima’s flamboyance - he surely has an anarchic streak – is genuine and compelling in the appropriate context. He teamed up with RSNO principal cellist Aleksei Kiseliov in his own showpiece, Violoncellos, vibrez!, a tunefully inoffensive, ultimately pseudo-Glass tribute to his former teacher for cello duo and strings. And what an encore – Jimi Hendrix’s Angel, sliced and diced with virtuosic panache. I’d have settled for these minus the Dvorak.
Sondergård turned things round in a second half featuring the feverish, enigmatic jubilation of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. This was a potent meeting of minds, Sondergård building an electrifying line of communication between the searing notes on the page and their red hot realisation by the RSNO, now operating like a well-oiled machine on turbo boost. Pity the Dvorak was a car crash.