Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Michael Tumelty

four stars

COULD we have asked for more? The RSNO produced the goods on Saturday with a conductor new to its books. His name is Cristian Macelaru, he’s been around for some years, is attracting attention in the States and last month was appointed music director of the Cabrillo Festival where he succeeds Marin Alsop with immediate effect.

Macelaru is the real McCoy. He has presence without being showy. He has command over musical moods on the small scale, as he demonstrated in in Jorg Widmann’s witty Beethovenian opus, Con Brio, launching the concert with a piratical edge. He has a fine sense of sweep and structure, as we heard in his red-blooded account of Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony, with the RSNO in full flight and Macelaru not getting in the way of the musicians actually playing the stuff, though the brass section did fire a few deafening salvos.

And he was a superbly responsive partner to pianist Paul Lewis in one of the finest concert performances of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto it has been my pleasure to hear. Lewis is many things: he has wonderful mastery of the poetry and expressiveness of the Emperor. He has impenetrable acuity of insight into its structure while revealing myriad subtleties within the big paragraphs.

In page after page he brought detail into focus. The majesty of the first movement, not overstated, was pellucid in its direction. In the heavenly slow movement, Time was suspended. And the finale was a musical life force. Macelaru and the RSNO were always on the pulse of Lewis’ superlative account. Let’s get this conductor back while we can afford him.