Music review: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

John Storgards
John Storgards
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Fresh from their European tour, the RSNO were firing on all cylinders in this knock-out programme of music with a strong visual quality conducted by John Storgårds. There was a painterly feel to the intricacy of Andrzej Panufnik’s Landscape for Strings which begins with a delicate mist of cello harmonics edged with ethereal off-stage female voices. Storgårds’ finely controlled pace brought out the subtle shifts of tone and texture at the centre of this mesmerising work.

Music review: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh *****

Jennifer Higdon’s Tuba Concerto, given its European premiere by RSNO principal John Whitener, makes a total of three written for this Cinderella instrument. Dynamo, the high-velocity opener, had Whitener showing off the tuba’s range with some zippy scale passages. Whitener’s rich, mellow tone paired beautifully with instruments such as the cello, oboe and trumpet for some soulful lines in the slow movement.

Storgårds and the orchestra then evoked the sounds of the universe in The Planets, Holst’s visionary depiction of our solar system.

The militaristic clack of wood on strings and the thunderous gusts of timpani that summon Mars can be a hard act to follow. But Storgårds expertly teased out the finer nuances of the planets’ musical personalities such as the beguiling harps and celeste in Venus and Jupiter’s chuckling woodwind commentary.

And then into deep space with rumbling double basses gliding through the rings of Saturn, muttering bassoons revealing the mysteries of Uranus and the angelic voices of the RSNO Chorus transporting us to Neptune.