Musical Review: RSNO & Thomas Søndergård, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Thomas Sondergard

RSNO & Thomas Søndergård, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall *****

What better way to embody the emergence of classical music after the suffocating, even ridiculous restrictions imposed on it over the past year, than an orchestral program filled with such ripe ingredients: brand new work; a lip-smacking concerto; and a greasy romantic symphony roasted to perfection.

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We may not have reached pre-pandemic consumer attendance levels yet, but it will come, especially when the promise is as wholesome and scintillating as Saturday’s RSNO performances under Music Director Thomas Søndergård.

The brief overture was entrusted to Carlijn Metselaar, born in the Netherlands and based in Edinburgh, winner of the orchestra’s Composer’s Hub Scheme 2019-2020. Inspired by Nan Shepherd’s published memoir of her climbing experiences in the Cairngorms, Into The Living Mountain exudes moody and gripping ambiguities between wildness and tranquility, menace and familiarity.

A bold opening theme gives way to a canvas of bright, shifting colors and fleeting moods, Metselaar’s finely tuned textures intensifying their iridescence, before a belated dive into mysterious depths. Søndergård has shaped its contours with touching sensitivity.

The sudden jolt, when Patricia Kopatchinskaja took the stage for Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, could hardly have been more electrifying. Here is the extreme theater of the evening, the bubbly Moldovan-born violinist dressed in a beautifully colored dress, an artistic statement in itself, shedding her slipper-like shoes to turn this concerto into something even more high-octane. than it usually is.

Always in charge, she ripped through the composer’s neoclassical frenzy with the choreographed dynamism of a rock star, even giving us “the cadenza that Stravinsky didn’t write” – her own jaw-dropping creation – as a stunning encore.

Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony was the perfect sequel, Søndergård dropping his baton and letting his hands shape a performance that was truly seismic, rhythmically intuitive, rich in every detail, breathtaking.

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