Classical review: RSNO: Oundjian conducts Brahm- Usher Hall, Edinburgh

It’s become clear over the past couple of weeks that the RSNO’s new musical director, Peter Oundjian, has had an immediate and direct effect on the orchestra’s playing.

RSNO: Oundjian conducts Brahms

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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In a programme last night that encompassed the dynamic simplicity of Britten, the sweeping lines of Rachmaninov and the meaty pungency of Brahms, it was hard to ignore Oundjian’s impact on the strings, who seem to have shaken off the old habits of lingering in attack, or skating over the tonal surface.

Take, for instance, the glistening confidence of the exposed seagull calls that open Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, which in turn inspired a reading of these supreme musical seascapes that was a triumph of clarity and proportion.

But is there still work to do on the wind and brass? Within those sections, there were minor issues of balance and unanimity that occasionally tarnished Britten’s tonal polish.

And it happened again in Brahms’ Symphony No 1, which was buzzing along nicely
until the finale, only to be sabotaged by a sequence of ragged entries.

Otherwise, this was a broad and airy Brahms 1, driven by an intensity of purpose that announced its gripping intent in the throbbing menace of the opening bars.

But Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was the jewel of the evening, the young American pianist Natasha Paremski igniting its mercurial variations with a scorching mixture of delicacy and fire, and Oundjian drawing a luscious density from the orchestra.