City Hall, Glasgow
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WELL, we know what's coming next about the SCO's concert on Friday night with conductor John Storgards and percussionist Colin Currie, don't we? It's a question: does it get any better? It's not rhetorical: there is an answer: it comes no better. Friday night's was one of the great SCO concerts, full stop.
The orchestral and acoustic miracles worked in this concert have to be recorded, admittedly in simplistic terms.
Just how, with no cathedral acoustic available, and no literal offstage and spatial distancing possible because of the size and configuration of the hall, did Storgards and the SCO produce that mesmerising mural of Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia?
Sophisticated balancing, I guess. But that's the great thing about miracles: ultimately, you can't explain them: you can only recognise and acknowledge them.
And James MacMillan's Veni Veni Emmanuel, more than 500 performances on from its 1992 premiere, which I was at, is another, with the magician percussionist Colin Currie, who has every nuance of the piece in his DNA, clocking up his 120th-plus performance of one of the greatest inspirations to any composer in the past century.
As is Sibelius's haunting and aching Swan of Tuonela, of which I have never heard a more heartrending performance than that by supreme cor anglais player Rosie Staniforth, who stilled the breath with the husky honesty of her tone, calling for a bit of musical graffiti, scrawled on the wall of musical comment: "Rosie S broke an old man's heart on Friday."
Then that great man Storgards and the SCO did it again in a wonderfully elliptical account of Sibelius's Sixth Symphony which exposed the raw heart of this allegedly pastoral piece, leaving only questions.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
CONTRARY to my expectations, I emerged from Anoushka Shankar' s performance on Saturday night of her late father Ravi's Second Sitar Concerto with my head in the stars and my ears jangling from the exhilarating sound world into which I had been swept for 40 minutes or so.
I didn't know what to expect, and felt unfamiliar with the language, style and idiom of the sitar and its music, my previous experience being limited to following the forays of George Harrison, a hero then and now, into Shankar's world of music in the 1960s. But it all came pouring out at me on Saturday, with these brilliant, infectious melodies, their driving rhythms, their tangy colours, previously unperceived tonal centres and structures, and an endless melodic decoration that is more than mere ornamentation.
And that, actually, was my point of revelation on Saturday as I sat glued to the unfolding melodic lines of the sitar and the fabulous orchestral score that goes with them: that the elements in a raga that I have always assumed to be scalic decoration or exotic ornamentation are, I think, actually the core.
I was absolutely swept away by the music of the concerto, delivered with relaxed, almost serene virtuosity by Anoushka Shankar, and by the atmospheric and energetic, pulsing dynamism with which the electric Kristjan Jarvi brought the whole thing brimming off the page and into the arms of an RSNO in splendidly responsive form. What a life-enhancing experience.
Beside this explosion of life and colour, the Third Symphony and Fratres of Arvo Part seemed rather churchy, earnest, and stoical, if beautiful.
A very different, and rather good, RSNO programme.