It felt only right to see such a choreographic conductor on the podium for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s dance-themed concert. Venezuelan-born Rafael Payare, one of the many esteemed alumni of that country’s El Sistema programme and currently chief conductor of Belfast’s Ulster Orchestra, seemed to jive his way through Kodály’s Dances of Galánta and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, swaying along to the music, crouching, jumping and more to get the vivid, energetic results he wanted.
RSNO/Rafael Payare ****
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Entertaining though it was, it all seemed a bit over-emphatic at times, but it nonetheless ensured swaggeringly confident playing from the RSNO, full of verve and propulsion. Balance sometimes went slightly awry in Kodály’s witty concatenation of Hungarian dance tunes, and also in Rachmaninov’s expansive semi-symphony, although Payare seemed in his element in showing off the orchestra’s sparkle in the latter piece’s explosive climaxes and flamboyant conclusion.
In between, however, came Beethoven’s far calmer, more thoughtful Fourth Piano Concerto. Soloist Lars Vogt is an experienced conductor himself, currently heading Gateshead’s Royal Northern Sinfonia, and he made several turns to gesture towards the orchestra from the keyboard. His account, however, felt strangely contrary, pitched uneasily between heavily pedalled tentativeness and percussive brittleness, and seldom finding a lyrical directness in between.
At times it felt like it needed more definition, but at others less – and Vogt and Payare had some different opinions over tempos, too. It was an intriguing, thought-provoking account, delivered commandingly, but one that ultimately felt a bit too calculated.