Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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Keith Bruce

Four stars

BRAHMS’ German Requiem is a demanding sing for any amateur chorus, and was only the second part of what was a big programme from the RSNO as an element of music director Peter Oundjian’s valedictory season of “blockbusters”. It is also possible that the chorus is in something of a transitionary phase at the moment, on the road to next year’s 175th anni-versary, with new recruits bedding in and some guests from the Edinburgh Festival Chorus boosting the tenors.

So while it is clearly well-suited to large forces, the languid pace the con-ductor set for the piece from the start placed great demands on the sing-ers, although the altos possessed a beautifully cohesive ensemble sound from the start. But something just a little brisker makes the baroque inspi-ration of much of the writing clearer than was the case here.

At the conclusion of the first half, violin soloist Augustin Hadelich had neatly pointed in that direction with an encore of the slow movement from a Bach Sonata that may have been precisely the sort of tune that Brahms had in mind. And with Brahms a champion of Dvorak, whose Violin Concerto we had just heard, there were pleasing links throughout the programme.

It had begun with the contemporaneous Pavane by Gabriel Faure in which the elision of themes between winds and strings was beautifully realised by a compact band, before Hadelich gave an exquisite account of the Dvorak, with especially expressive playing on the slow movement.

The dynamics of the Requiem had clearly been well-drilled into the singers by chorus-master Gregory Batsleer, and in that they were perfectly bal-anced by baritone Roderick Williams, whose ability to produce exactly the right weight of performance in any context is remarkable, and by South Af-rican soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon with a beautiful Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.