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Review: music

BBC SSO/Gourlay

BBC SSO/Gourlay

City Hall, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

OH dear. I am going to be lynched for this; for the rest of the week I'd better go in disguise. As the crowd poured out of the City Hall yesterday, flushed with excitement and passion from the emotional gamut they had run in the performance they'd just heard of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, The Pathetique, all I could hear were expressions such as "incredible", "astonishing", and " powerfully moving". So why was this listener unmoved? Why had I turned to stone?

In my view, conductor Andrew Gourlay barely scratched the surface of the symphony. That symphony is not a collection of notes. It is one the greatest creations in musical history. It is a living, breathing, and ultimately dying organism.

It pulses with emotion, but that pulse has to be activated by the conductor. Gourlay's pacing was routine and erratic. He failed to secure sound synchronisation of the big ensemble.

He was often inflexible in his pacing. He got a poor balance from the brass section, which was too loud. There was little sense of real dynamic shading, warmth, or of come and go with the momentum of the music.

Of course there was excitement in the stunning march of the penultimate movement, but that was the electric playing of the SSO, supping deep from its personal well of fierce intensity. Worst of all, I have never heard that finale so quickly hurried through its final exhalations. I was rigid at its superficiality.

Martin Roscoe's brilliantly characterised portrait of Strauss's Burleske, and the SSO's charming account of Mozart's wee Seventh Symphony saved the day for this soul. The stars are for the SSO playing.

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