Of course a first night with a new music director is probably going to be an occasion: that’s the way it is with first nights; it’s a year down the line that counts.
Appropriately, the RSNO’s first night with Peter Oundjian, the orchestra’s new music director at the helm in his own programme with a full house and the orchestra absolutely flying, was an electric affair.
It offered a pristine, super-articulate, bracing account of Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla, an infinitely flexible and expressive performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the great Vadim Gluzman playing the concerto on the astounding Stradivarius for which it was written, and a probing, shattering account of Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony, The Year 1905.
That explored the underbelly of the symphony through the ominous undertones of its opening, the vicious and merciless contours of the second movement section that depict the slaughter of civilians, the impassioned elegy of the third movement, and the terrifying urgency of the alarm in the finale which points prophetically, not so much to the future as to what we are confronted with daily as we watch the news on Syria.
Performances all round were amazing, and the subtle lighting shifts in the symphony effective. But three things really counted: the refinement of the orchestral sound, the balance Oundjian secured from within the RSNO, with the strings always audible, and the man’s clear abilities as a concerto accompanist.
His steering of the RSNO in the Tchaikovsky was an extraordinary example of orchestral accompaniment: they breathed as one.
Much more to follow, I’m sure.