Music review: BBC SSO and Cédric Tiberghien

Matthias Pintscher chose a monumental symphonic programme for his BBC SSO appearance '“ the equivalent of a carb-heavy sandwich made of hefty outsiders with a light, crispy filling. First, the awesome soundscape Rachmaninov created in response to Arnold Böchlin's symbolist painting, the Isle of the Dead. Rachmaninov's symphonic poem is a triumph of dark, sustained intensity, its repetitive earworm of an opening '“ the insistent, ominous five-beat motif '“ fuelling a series of stomach-churning climaxes.

Matthias Pintscher PIC: Monika Schulz-Fieguth
Matthias Pintscher PIC: Monika Schulz-Fieguth


City Halls, Glasgow

There were plentiful moments where Pintscher’s reading had us in thrall, sonorous images as pungent as Böchlin’s Gothic vision; but too often, between these, the temperature dipped to present a fragmented experience. Balance was an issue, the City Halls acoustics struggling to contain brass players who were given free rein.

Similar issues left the closing work, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, short of complete fulfilment. It was clear Pintscher had a very personalised view of the music – an almost clinical dissection, teetering on the pedantic, of the rich melodic contours in the opening two movements – that seemed to unnerve the orchestral unanimity and create curious instrumental imbalances. Ecstatic moments were let down by unconvincing ones.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 12, K414, provided a degree of recompense. The crispness of Cédric Tiberghien’s solo was spirit-lifting, and the SSO strings latched on to that. But again, there were some uneven moments – even from Tiberghien – that robbed the final movement, especially, of its sparkle. None of this was Pintscher at his typical best.