A taste of Spain never goes amiss this time of year. It dominated this sunny RSNO programme, either directly through the music of Manuel de Falla and Basque-inspired Frenchman Maurice Ravel or filtered through the seductive Mexican charm of composer Gabriela Ortiz’s Hominum: Suite for Orchestra, receiving its Scottish premiere under the baton of fellow Mexican Carlos Miguel Prieto.
RSNO, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****
Ortiz’s musical discourse on the human condition, its primeval instincts for societal order versus the turbulent unpredictability of the individual, set the mood, its volatile temperament vying between the delicate, breathy colours of the opening and wild rhythmic games that come and go as the work’s four evocative sections run their course.
Prieto tuned the orchestra to its shifting colours, revelling in the fusion of influences that range from Latin American dance and rock-fulled minimalism to a starburst ending characterised by glittering Messiaen-like harmonies. A mesmerising piece, weakened only by its ultimate collapse into cliché.
The other major work was de Falla’s ballet score The Three-Cornered Hat, presented in its rarely heard full version. This was a sensual, seductive performance, teasingly mercurial, its blood reddened by sporadic and exotic bursts of Andalusian cante jondo by soprano Ana Schwedhelm from various unexpected corners of the auditorium.
Ravel’s Bolero acted as a sparkling inbuilt encore. Earlier, his Piano Concerto in G was the evening’s one big disappointment, lacklustre and introverted in the hands of pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell, a mood echoed in the orchestra’s tentative, unfocused support. - Ken Walton