ON Friday night at the SCO's concert I felt as though I had been smacked in the face.
Twice. I can only assume that, as they played through the Scottish cities last week they knew they were onto a flier, and that that realisation propelled the SCO to the startling heights of electric performance they achieved with conductor Thierry Fischer in Glasgow.
I shouldn't have been shocked by what I heard: I know as well as anyone the SCO's amazing technical excellence. I know all about their wonderful homogeneity of ensemble, though how they secure the detail within that remains a wonder. I know their strength and power – and remember that that power is emanating from a small band.
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But knowing all this did not prepare me for the staggering display of high voltage playing with which they delivered Stravinsky's Pulcinella on Friday. It wasn't brawn: they dug right into the surface and down into the soil of the piece; and what thay unearthed, led by guest leader Daniel Rowland from the Brodsky Quartet, was earth-moving and shattering. I do not think I have heard better playing from within the heart, mind, soul and instruments of this band. This was sheer class; with grit.
The second smack in the face came through the mind-blowing oboe playing of Francois LeLeux, a poet and acrobat of his instrument, whose electrifying playing of James MacMillan's sensational Oboe Concerto was nothing less than astonishing. A superbly rounded Mendelssohn Four brought us gently down from the dizzy heights of the night.