Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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Michael Tumelty

WELL, ladies and gentlemen; I'm sorry to say this, especially if you enjoyed it, but that Shostakovich Ten on Saturday night from the baton of Dutch conductor Lawrence Renes did absolutely nothing for me. It's a fascinating phenomenon, when a performance leaves you cold. The RSNO played well, and intensively, under leader Jim Clark. All the right notes and gestures were there. All the shapes and structures were appropriately configured. Tempos were occasionally debatable. But, for this listener, nothing, absolutely nothing, came off the page. It was like music by numbers. The first movement should drag you into its fathomless depths, then shatter you with its inexorable climax. The four-minute, abrasive Scherzo from Hell should pin you to the wall with its sheer ferocity; and so on, right through to Shostakovich beating you about the brains with the hammering reiterations of his obsessive motto theme in the finale. This was polite. It was civilised. It was correct. It wore a suit. The symphony is about Shostakovich finally sticking the boot into Stalin, for God's sake. I'm an open wound to this music. I felt nothing. Renes neglected the spirit of the music and it failed to ignite.

At least the first half was more fun, with Shostakovich's Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra and Terrence Wilson's rather posh version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, though that was a bit low-fat and lacked flamboyance, even if Wilson's madcap version of Mozart's Turkish Rondo made up for it in sheer hilarity. But oh, that dire, pedestrian vision of the great Tenth Symphony. It's all very well to have the right notes: the music within them has to be released.