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sco, city halls, Glasgow

IT'S almost incredible that it's 16 years since an amazing Eroica Symphony with the SCO in Glasgow set the SCO management off in hot pursuit of Joseph Swensen for principal conductor, a post he held for nine years.

Now, as conductor emeritus, he still has the old dynamism, which he and the orchestra demonstrated on Friday night in an exhilarating account of Schumann's Third Symphony, The Rhenish, that was as full-bodied and red-blooded as it was suave and expressive.

It was one of those SCO accounts, with supreme playing from the expanded horn section, woodwind, brass and super-alert strings, that again raised the issue of Schumann the Outsider; Schumann the individualist, the man apart, and the Romantic composer without parallel. The symphony, with a slightly augmented SCO in full flight, was a provocative stimulus to thought: was Schumann, in fact unique, and not just AN Other Romantic composer? Did anyone ever say anything quite as Schumann did?

Indeed you could argue a similar case for Samuel Barber, the American who eschewed European trends and pursued his American inclinations in his Cello Concerto, magnificently portrayed in a decisive, supremely confident performance on Friday night by cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, whose playing projected the mercurial character of the music, with the soul of the piece in its ravishing slow movement, set against the totally volatile nature of the finale, mind-blowingly played by the SCO. Kirshbaum is a master of the difficult concerto, and his intense, solo Bach encore was precisely the balm required. A fine concert, prefaced by tellingly intimate playing of two extracts from Walton's glorious music for Henry V.

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