Royal Scottish National Orchestra | Rating: *** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Receiving its world premiere, remiscipate by Lillie Harris - inspired by the demolition of Glasgow’s Red Road flats – augers well for the orchestra’s new Hub for emerging composers. Her work impressed with its powerful evocation of a crumbling building, through moaning trombones and tremolo strings, as well as the bleak aftermath of dust and silence.
Strauss’ Four Last Songs, written towards the end of his life as a final love letter to his wife, are utterly sublime. But whilst conductor Peter Oundjian elicited from the orchestra a warm, lustrous backdrop for soprano Marita Sølberg’s beautiful mellow voice, unfortunately her detached interpretation – head buried in the score with little engagement with the audience – didn’t match the emotional intensity of the music.
Sparkle was missing in the first three movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 Choral as the orchestra played on auto-pilot.
It was only in the finale when the RSNO Chorus launched into the Ode to Joy that the piece sparked into life.
There was great synergy between the choir and the well-blended quartet of soloists: Sølberg, mezzo Renata Pokupić, tenor Ben Johnson and bass-baritone Stephan Loges.
But it was undoubtedly the rousing contributions from the choir, expertly coached by chorus director Gregory Batsleer, who stole the show; singing robustly in German and without music. The RSNO also bid farewell to principal trumpet John Gracie whose brilliant contribution has given audiences 35 years of musical enjoyment.