Music

RSNO

RSNO Centre, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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Keith Bruce, Four stars

THE city of Glasgow has a new instrumental anthem in composer Oliver Searle’s Sauchiehall, which had its live premiere in Wednesday’s lunchtime concert under the baton of Polish conductor Patrycja Pieczara.

Although it made its digital debut two years ago via the RSNO 360 app for your phone or tablet computer, to mark the orchestra’s move from one end of Glasgow’s most internationally-renowned thoroughfare to the other, it has taken until now for the piece to worm its way into a programme. The RSNO management would be wise to schedule another performance soon, because it sounds like a popular hit to me. With nods to various chapters in the 125-year history of the orchestra, including being the pit band for Scottish Opera, and having Aaron Copland as a guest conductor and Gustav Holst in the brass section, the piece also tries to reflect the varied sonic delights to be heard on Sauchiehall Street, with dance halls, rock venues and traditional music overlapping in its eight minutes. Pieczara gave it hip-swinging direction just to emphasise the point.

It was preceded by the unmistakably 20th century American sound of Samuel Barber’s Second Essay for Orchestra which had a similarly arresting climax, and just as ear-catching a start with trio of bass drum, tuba and flute. It is a piece that would sit very comfortably alongside the music from Star Wars that the orchestra will play on Saturday.

Whether as a deliberate attempt to complement the rest of the programme or for other reasons, Pieczara gave us some very sassy Mendelssohn to follow. This reading of his “Italian” Symphony No4 was rather less of a change of gear than one might have expected. It was an approach that worked well on the outer movements but was less successful on the slower two in the middle when the dynamic variations required of the strings were less pronounced than they should be. The duetting winds that are a feature of the whole piece, however, sounded superb in the lively acoustic of the new(ish) auditorium.