The sure ticket among orchestral performances these days in Scotland is anything involving Thomas Søndergård and the RSNO. The chemistry - nurtured during his days as principal guest conductor, and now explosive in his key role as musical director - is electrifying. Saturday’s blistering performances, in a programme marking Remembrance, but not over-egging it, reinforced the magic.
RSNO & Thomas Sondergard, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall *****
Prokofiev’s century-old “Classical” Symphony was every bit the neoclassical re-voicing of Haydn, lithe and crisp, its proportions taut but flexible enough to accommodate tasteful melodic nuance. But there was much more. The detail in this performance was breathtaking, Søndergård’s conscious drawing out of the woodwind adding a pungent edge and piquancy so often missed.
After such a hot start, what then for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1? Again, the impact was instant, as Russian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk bounded on stage, and with his ballistic opening chords, manic Liberace smile and flamboyant gestures, made this mammoth warhorse sound as fresh as the day it was conceived. It had power and panache, but it also had brilliant rhythmic precision and attention to tonal detail that ensured every note and phrase had reason to be there. A dazzling Horowitz encore followed.
Then the choral conclusion of the programme. What a joy to hear the burnished boys’ voices of Glasgow Cambiata in movements from Ken Johnston’s tuneful All Those Men Who Marched Away, then an incisive RSNO Chorus and the angelic purity of soprano Elin Rombo in Poulenc’s bittersweet Gloria. A benchmark concert! - Ken Walton