The intention here was to have the composer conduct his own violin concerto, played by the soloist for whom it was written, Anne-Sophie Mutter. But with 85-year-old Polish legend Krzysztof Penderecki unable to be in Scotland over the weekend to direct the RSNO, the task fell to music director Thomas Søndergård. In the end, no one was complaining.
Music review: RSNO, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****
Had Mutter called off, it would have been a very different matter. Her ownership of Penderecki’s Violin Concerto No 2 “Metamorphosen” - she premiered it in 1995 and remains its principle champion - was evident from the very opening, where she responds to an insistent single note motif by the orchestra, and from which the lengthy single movement structure journeys through peaks and troughs of mixed emotions, largely reflective, tumultuous only to an extent, to its final becalmed resting place.
Mutter’s poise, her easeful virtuosity in the stratospheric heights of the instrument, her poetic reading of the work at its broadest and minutest levels, were evocatively underpinned by a precise and deftly balanced RSNO performance under Søndergård.
If anything, the work is too long and prone to derivation, such as frequent allusions to Shostakovich. And Mutter encored with a Bach Sarabande, an old-style interpretation we could have done without.
The second half was vintage Søndergård, a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony loaded with fresh expressive thought, heightened by
pinpoint textural precision and distinguished solos, colossal in concept, if slightly marred by premature applause in the infamous silence near the end. - Ken Walton