ON paper, Beethoven and Philip Glass looked like they would make unlikely bedfellows for the Bruckner Orchestra Linz’s Sunday afternoon appearance at the Usher Hall. In practice - in a concert very much of two halves - it turned out to be the case.
Bruckner Orchestra Linz | Rating: *** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh
With Beethoven’s sprightly King Stephen Overture to start, followed by his lyrical Piano Concerto No 4, the 52 minute-long Symphony No 9 by Philip Glass came from a completely different world. Not only were the composers themselves in stark contrast to each other but also the orchestra’s performance of their music.
Stiff and one-dimensional to start, things loosened up a bit for the concerto, although with a few string desks too many, the orchestra’s accompaniment missed the mark in being a fitting match for the exquisite delicacy of soloist Melvyn Tan and his peerless, silvery virtuosity.
Yet the symphony, for large orchestra with a particularly imposing line up of percussion, was completely assured and spot on in its pacing under the baton of Glass champion Dennis Russell Davies.
Any idea of its length being some sort of endurance test was dispelled in a performance that captivated from beginning to end. The scoring was especially lush in the second movement, with mesmerising shifting colours. Precise yet edgy, mysterious but also with great clarity, it was impossible not to get caught up in a work that the Bruckner Orchestra was well applauded for bringing to Scotland.