Music review: The RSNO with Mira Wang and Jan Vogler, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra
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I’m guessing the majority of Saturday’s Glasgow RSNO audience would have found the first half of this programme hard going. Not so much because of Brahms’ super-intensive Double Concerto (for violin and cello), which in itself is an exhaustive but highly satisfying listen, but because it was paired with another double concerto, by the equally intense Wolfgang Rihm, whose music (and there’s masses of it) can often be hard to digest.

The RSNO with Mira Wang and Jan Vogler, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ***

The latter was written for the evening’s soloists, husband-and-wife team Mira Wang and Jan Vogler, whose performance, with the RSNO under Peter Oundjian, was as meticulous and cerebral as the music. There is a coldness in this work, however: a relentless torrent of notes whose own unyielding energy defeats itself.

Wang and Vogler found something of the nostalgic modernism that echoes Berg, but is never quite so emotive. I wonder, too, if Oundjian could have unearthed more expressive nuances in what came over as a dry, unfeeling score.

The Brahms concerto injected some much-needed warmth, and in its later stages, particularly the gypsy-flavoured finale, we saw something of the spark that exists between this duo, Vogler’s deep-driven passion teasingly offset by Wang’s clinical precision.

If the first half contained too much of the same thing, the second brought complete respite. After the premiere of Benjamin Rimmer’s hazily atmospheric Pathway (a short 25th birthday commission by Classic FM), Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony produced the most polished performance of the evening: thoughtful, colourful and stimulating.