Whatever Thomas Søndergård does in rehearsals with the RSNO it pays off big time in live performance. His impact, once again, on the orchestra was one of instant transformation. In a concert that complemented a Richard Strauss first half with Brahms’ First Symphony in the second, there wasn’t a single moment of ordinariness. Every note had a story to tell.
Music review: The RSNO & Thomas Søndergård, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall JJJJJ
They were joined by the brilliant Russian pianist Kirill Gernstein in Strauss’ quixotic Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra, a work of such idiosyncratic unpredictability, it requires as strong and daring a character to bring it off. Gernstein nailed it convincingly in a performance of electrifying immediacy, theatrical interaction (that ongoing conversation with the timpani) and with an RSNO totally in sync with his spontaneity and dry, infectious wit.
Then more Strauss, and the swirling waltzes and luxuriant scene-setting distilled by the composer into his concert suite from the opera Der Rosenkavalier. Søndergård’s coolheaded gesturing translated into a sweeping, high-temperature performance. Where did that super-heated string sound come from, that effusive confidence oozing from every characterful solo, or that enriched, 18-carat glow emanating from the full ensemble? It transfixed from start to finish.
So the scene was set for an interesting Brahms symphony, which it was and more. No detail was skirted over. The tension-mounting opening had a definition (those menacing timps again) you rarely hear. So clear and meaningful was the instrumental precision throughout, the age-old problems with Brahms evaporated. Simply the best.