Music review: RSNO & Kristof Barati, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Whether or not it was planned to coincide with St David’s Day, the RSNO doffed its cap to Wales this weekend with a concert opener by the late William Matthias, his Resquiescat of 1978. It’s a short restful work, relatively uneventful, but beautifully and simply sculpted, scented with wistful textures and muted colours, all delicately expressed in this warm and thoughtful performance.

RSNO & Kristof Barati, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

Beyond that, this was a red-blooded programme, works by Brahms and Dvorak brought vividly to life under the baton of dapper, silver-haired Hungarian Gilbert Varga, and featuring fellow countryman, violinist Kristóf Baráti, as soloist.

They were a dynamic coupling in Brahms’ Violin Concerto, equally clean and precise in their articulation of detail and of the broader, majestic sweep. But the real excitement lay in the way Baráti, a big strapping lad with supercharged rhythmic swagger, threatened on occasion to rock the steady boat.

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It was always more a tease than a reality, but with the unflappable Varga there to accommodate, even contain, things, the balance between perilous spontaneity and unified cohesion was thrillingly struck. The orchestra, given plenty freedom by Varga to listen and react to the soloist, responded with characterful and colourful poise. Baráti encored his robust Brahms with the gentle breeze of unaccompanied Bach.

Varga’s gentle authority again inspired chic delivery of Dvorak’s Symphony “From the New World”. But there was sparkling iridescence, too, in a performance that embraced welcoming tempi (a flowing, unlaboured Adagio) and repeatedly elicited fresh thoughts from this lovely old warhorse. - Ken Walton