Stravinsky Sings, RCS, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

Five stars

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OH come on, let’s not stint on a star. Friday’s lunchtime concert, the first of 2016 in the Royal Conservatoire, was a cracker for me in that it featured, by chance, three of my favourite Stravinsky pieces: the Symphonies of Wind Instruments, the woodwind Octet and the composer’s Mass, with the outer works in the programme conducted by Tim Dean, head of opera in the RCS, and the glorious Octet conducted by young Andrey Rubtsov, an assistant to Donald Runnicles.

I’m not exactly sure why Dean entitled his programme Stravinsky Sings, as there was only one vocal work on the programme, and the Mass is short. But then again, when I immersed myself in these three wind/brass works as a youngster, I used to describe them as being from what I called “Stravinsky’s black and white period”, and I don’t have the faintest idea why I called it that; so no hair-splitting.

Suffice to say the performances were terrific, and really expressive (Stravinsky would hate that word)) of what the music was “about”. The opening yelps of the Symphonies were electrifying, the students played up to the hilt, and Dean’s intelligent structuring of the piece was lucid in its acuity. The eight players in the Octet, with Andrey Rubtsov in discreet but perceptive control, did a frankly fabulous job on the music, characterising it wonderfully, with all of its humour, hell-for-leather pacing and near-outrageous cartoon capers.

In the Mass, with the RCS Voices splendidly-sonorous yet intimate in the Stevenson Hall, Tim Dean and the singers captured beautifully the thrilling duality between the ancient and the modern rituals that so colour the music.