City Hall, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

Three Stars

OOH, I love it when a composer with a real intellect and a genuine flair for conducting gets his hands and mind on something familiar: it can find itself totally refreshed. It’s not that often that we hear Matthias Pintscher, the BBC SSO’s Artist-in-Association, let loose on mainstream repertoire. He’s a proven dab hand in modern music: he can make textural mud translucent; and if you need a conducting sat-nav to guide you through complexity, Pintscher’s the man, though the SSO is very lucky to have a clutch of that species close to hand.

But Thursday night was Pintscher’s night. Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead is a masterpiece, but one that can be elusive. In the wrong hands it can feel as if it is going on all night, and going nowhere at that. Pintscher gave it shape, direction and climax: his sense of sway, mirrored in his physical movement, was magical, and the SSO, playing with dark atmosphere, lapping and slowly-swirling figures that sucked you into an inexorable whirlpool, never lost concentration for a second.

I’m afraid that Cedric Tiberghien’s playing of Mozart’s delightful 12th Piano Concerto left me cold. I love the set to which this concerto belongs. Tiberghien’s finger-work was fine, but while he captured the playful elements, he seemed to miss what Mozart pointed out: it’s for connoiseurs, too. And while Pintscher grinned and got the spirit, I couldn’t hear it from the pianist.

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was absolutely wonderful, with Pintscher’s dead subtle but steel grip on the structure, and total refusal to be rushed, leading to an intense and incandescent SSO performance.