BBC SSO, City Hall, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

Four Stars

I HAVE never known conductor Nicholas McGegan turn out a dull, lifeless or routine performance with an orchestra. It’s simply not in his nature. He’s a dynamo, a true animator, an energiser and an ignition point from which music can take off and take wing. I don’t think McGegan could be dull if you paid him.

And on Thursday night, with the BBC SSO playing up to the hilt in period style (do they just turn the vibrato and all that stuff on and off?) McGegan bounced through Haydn’s l’isola disabitata, an overture from the composer’s ‘storm and stress’ palette, lean, serious and dramatic at one moment, then away like a rocket, with a breathtaking capacity to switch in the middle to something more urbane in triple-time, before doffing its cap to where it had just been.

Then pianist Jonathan Biss joined in the fun with a magical account of Mozart’s delicious Ninth Piano Concerto K271 in the loveliest E flat major, and a performance that pulsed with poetry and gleamed softly with an almost-divine poise , while Biss, wth extra-special capacities of perception, sought, found and revealed the fantastic wit and playfulness embedded in this marvellous music. It felt as instinctive as it was intellectual. I’m tempted to say it was the performance with everything, though there’s probably no such thing; but this was darned close.

In the second half, McGegan and his orchestra, absolutely flying and in terrific form, roared through Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus and a fabulous account of Haydn’s Military Symphony, with nice musical control of the seismic percussiveness that can be too-easily overwhelming.