City Hall, Glasgow
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Luxuriant, rippling meadows of tonality; raging dissonant climaxes; blistering, shimmering sound sculptures; the shining residue of deliciously lambent merging string figures; wildly disparate textures exquisitely blended; ensemble and composer united in ravishing combination. This was Aaron Jay Kernis's revelatory Newly Drawn Sky, here receiving its Scottish Premiere as the first of the three orchestral masterpieces featured in this superb concert. And if what followed was more familiar fare, it was played with equal commitment and wonder by this consistently inspiring orchestra.
Grieg's Piano Concerto - the headline act - saw charismatic soloist Lars Vogt in authoritative, declarative mood, punching out the iconic opening themes with a free-flowing energy. There was an accompanying delicacy and lightness of touch though, particularly in the gorgeously limpid Adagio second movement - sublimely rendered, even if the orchestra had to strain a little in order to maintain contact with Vogt's extravagantly nuanced phrasing. The dancing, folk-inspired third movement provided a rousing finish, and a beautifully serene solo encore of Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor restored calm before the interval.
On our return, a glorious performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 - conductor Donald Runnicles driving his charges on through every coruscating bar of this devastating outburst of genius. Every detail was thrillingly realised: the grotesque twisted military themes, the haunting Lento section's plaintive strings and majestic brass, the chaotic frenzy of the finale - and all replete with wonderful solo contributions. It marked a dazzling conclusion to a musical display of rare quality.