The RSNO & Thomas Søndergård ****
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Starting with the lilting strings in the dance-like Canzonetta, plangent clarinet lines added luminosity in Scene with Cranes before the funereal Valse triste. Gradually building momentum, the waltz hurtled out of control until a quartet of first violins brought this episode to a heart-stopping end.
Poetry and music are blended to perfection in Mahler’s ravishing Rückert-Lieder. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston infused these five love songs with a warmth tinged with sadness. Søndergård led the orchestra through a polished and dynamic account of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No 3, capturing the full emotional panoply of this powerful story in 15 action-packed minutes. The majestic Swan Hymn from the horns which rolls like a wave through the finale of Sibelius’ Symphony No.5 is so good it’s been pinched for many a pop song. The journey to this point was just as thrilling.
The musicians cavorted through the idiosyncratic opener with its desolate textures and edgy bassoon riffs, then the calmer rustic andante before Søndergård milked the pauses between the final six punchy chords to end on a dramatic high.