Music review: RSNO: Romantic Grieg, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

The annual RSNO St Valentine programme – simply titled Romantic Grieg this year – tends to be a package of potboilers with a common thread of romance. This one ticked the box, but beyond that lacked the spark of young love.


RSNO: Romantic Grieg, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ***

Perhaps some kind of slick, spoken commentary was needed to enliven the narrative and draw the connections.

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What we got, however, was a somewhat stiff-shirted playlist of extracts from Bizet’s Carmen, Kachaturian’s Spartacus (the famous Onedin Line bit), Mahler’s Adagietto from his Fifth Symphony and Ravel’s Bolero as padding for the central meat of Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.

Conductor Michael Seal certainly exerted clean-cut discipline on the RSNO, a clockwork beat that ensured efficiency at every turn, not least in the closing performance of Bolero, where the strength of the music lies in the obsessive power of repetition, and which proved the most driven and ecstatic experience of the evening.

But where those familiar Carmen snippets, the cathartic surge of Spartacus or the passionate ups and downs of Romeo and Juliet were pleasurable in a routine sense, they lacked intuitive spontaneity. The Mahler was disappointingly soulless.

Grieg’s Piano Concerto ought to have rocketed the temperature, and to some extent pianist Florian Mitrea injected that necessary virtuosic vigour. But it was a strangely erratic performance, generally so four-square as to curb its youthful fervour. Ken Walton