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BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow Nobody does it better

IF you were there on Thursday night, you don't need me to tell you anything about it.

MASTER AT WORK: The audience was treated to a show of the genius of conductor Donald Runnicles with the BBC SSO at Glasgow's City Halls.
MASTER AT WORK: The audience was treated to a show of the genius of conductor Donald Runnicles with the BBC SSO at Glasgow's City Halls.

If you were listening to the live broadcast of Donald Runnicles's account of Act Two of Tristan und Isolde on the wireless, I have no idea what it might have sounded like. But I will tell you this: the effect and impact of the performance, with Runnicles, the SSO and as starry a cast of performers as you might imagine, was staggering and awesome.

With an exquisitely detailed and coloured introductory performance of extracts from Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet, the SSO gave one of its finest performances in the past 30 years, demonstrating that conductors such as Deneve, Ticciati and Davis have by no means cornered the market in capturing the near-lunatic originality of the great French composer.

The extraordinary and compelling intensity of the Tristan performance, shatteringly sung and exhaustingly played, displayed Runnicles's near-genius at casting and his magnetic ability to persuade great singers to come to Scotland.

You would go far and wide to find a soprano with the unshakable power of Nina Stemme, whose erotically charged performance of Isolde was almost uncomfortable in its intensity. The same applied to Robert Dean Smith's engulfing Tristan, Jane Irwin's impassioned Brangane, Peter Rose's crushingly effective King Mark, and Andrew Rees's impetuous Melot. And the band gave the performance of its life. What a night. What a performance. What a cast. What an orchestra. And what a genius conductor. Does it get any better?

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