Music review: the RSNO & Thomas Søndergård

Thomas S�nderg�rd PIC: Martin Bubandt
Thomas S�nderg�rd PIC: Martin Bubandt
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You know that moment, buying a new car, when you fire up the ignition, press your foot on the accelerator and the connection is immediate, the steering instantly responsive, the decision made? The experience was similar on Saturday when music director designate Thomas Søndergård took the RSNO, and us, on a thrill-a-minute journey.

The RSNO & Thomas Søndergård, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall *****

First up, Poulenc’s edgy Suite from Les Biches: a bad-ass dance score in the mode of neo-classical Stravinsky, oozing saucy energy, softened by those typically gauche Poulenc melodies and peppered harmonies, which – under Søndergård’s precise baton – had the RSNO playingat the top of its game. No awkward starts; no rolling bends; just a natural momentum that let the music’s inner fire ebb and flow.

Then it was the turn of Aleksei Kiseliov, the orchestra’s principal cellist, to take over the driving seat as soloist in Saint-Saëns’ flamboyant Cello Concerto No 1. What a natural performer he is.

In a concerto that fires on all cylinders from the offset, Kiseliov’s opening flourish set the mood and direction with compelling character and assurance: a dizzy technical display par excellence, from which his innate musicality – not least those moments of golden lyricism – took easeful flight. An encore was demanded. Kiseliov obliged with another Saint-Saëns’ favourite, the Swan.

The concert ended on another high, the sensuous, multi-coloured masterpiece that is Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherezade. Again, Søndergård’s panoramic vision was instantly embraced by the orchestra, gratifyingly cohesive, yet effervescent at every turn.