It’s easy to see why John Suchet’s flagship programme on Classic FM is so popular. Presenting the RSNO’s Classic FM Hall of Fame concert, he exhibited that same silken line of chat, laced with informed simplicity and friendly engagement. He knows his stuff, knows his audience, and knows instinctively how to link the two.
RSNO - Classic FM Hall of Fame, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****
That said, the attendance in Glasgow was lean. Maybe it was the hot weather, or maybe it’s because Classic FM tastes don’t entirely align with traditional RSNO audience tastes. To the latter, this hit parade selection of Debussy, Mozart, Dvorak and Beethoven may just have seemed one to miss in favour of other, more adventurous programmes.
Yet they missed their orchestra in its finest form. With the hyper-charged Clemens Schuldt on the podium, the chemistry was intense, intimate and engaging. There was instant warmth in Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, its exquisite flute solo (supplely shaped by a seven-months pregnant Katherine Bryan) setting the scene for the magical wash of sound that colours this keynote Impressionist masterpiece.
There was an element of surprise, too, in a performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto played by Kari Kriikku on basset horn, the instrument it was originally written for. Suchet said it would alter our understanding of this work. Kriikku obliged with a performance gorgeously reflective of the instrument’s softer hues.
After a few hair-raising Dvorak Slavonic Dances, Schuldt’s Beethoven Fifth flew like the wind, its riskiness occasionally leading to wobbles in the final movements.