Music review: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

The Australian conductor Nicholas Carter is a reliable pair of hands. His beat is distinct, his musical intentions visibly clear. As such, these BBC SSO performances felt safe, solid and intelligent.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow ***

He opened with Haydn’s Symphony No42 in D, seldom played but which delights in the symphonic experimentation of its time: delicate classical proportions and sweetly shaped phrases, with the odd twist – a third movement Trio given to solo string ensemble – to distinguish Haydn from his contemporaries.

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The expressive detail Carter elicited was beautifully gauged, every phrase given a meaning, whether a gentle sigh, inquisitive question or resolute answer. Delightful in so many ways, but played too safely to fully engage in the symphonic adventure, and contained within a narrow dynamic range.

Vadym Kholodenko’s vision of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini fed on the power of extreme contrast. It wasn’t a belt-and-braces performance, the opening bars strangely, and worryingly, reduced to irrelevance.

Yet the minute the theme emerged, interesting things happened: ripples of delicious virtuosity from Kholodenko; surprising shades of quiet cool and conscious detachment as a foil to the more ostentatious power-driven variations; and an accommodating interplay between soloist and orchestra. But why throw away the final bars so over-dismissively?

Brahms’ Third Symphony began as a slow burner, its featureless opening gathering purpose in good time for the fresh spring colours of the Andante, the sun-baked warmth of the third movement and a finale that was big, bold and powerfully engaging. - Ken Walton