BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow ****
In Thursday’s performance by the BBC SSO, Ilan Volkov – with cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan dizzily flamboyant as the eponymous hero and SSO lead violist Scott Dickinson as his subservient sidekick Sancho Panza – echoed that ambivalence by striking a teasing balance between dogmatic precision and swashbuckling recklessness.
Actually, the conductor could have encouraged more of the latter - an embracing radiant sheen from the orchestra to counterbalance the riotous sheep and other pictorial literals Strauss indulges in. Otherwise, what a joyous outing for a relative concert hall rarity.
It was the conclusion to a wholly eccentric programme. Volkov had opened with the ornithological cacophony of Romanian composer Myriam Marbe’s Serenata – Eine kleine Sonnenmusik, a tantalising surround-sound menagerie in which the musicians doubled on bird whistles and somehow created structural satisfaction out of sonic chaos.
Then the satirical grotesquerie of Prokofiev’s Suite from the ballet Chout (The Buffon), its galumphing characterisations brought vividly to life, and never a moment, even at its most lustrous, where Prokofiev’s pungent, sardonic undertones lost their grizzly bite. The perfect springboard to Don Quixote. Ken Walton