City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce, four stars

EVEN on a gloriously Sunday afternoon, another of conductor Thomas Dausgaard’s Composer Roots programmes – for which the SSO were joined by the BBC Singers and pianist Behzod Abduraimov, still in his twenties but with a formidable performing career already – was worth sacrificing three hours of sunshine.

The concert would culminate in a memorable performance of Rachmaninov Vespers of 1915, a work that requires singers of the calibre of the BBC’s professional choir to do it justice. Under conductor Elena Sharkova, the twenty four voices supplied the tenor and mezzo soloists as well as a bass who brought a resonant low B flat to the Nunc Dimittis in true Russian style. Such details, and superb diction of the language from everyone on the platform, were obvious, and the way the voices blended, and particularly the altos and tenors when they were divided into multiple parts, was a delight throughout the work’s 50 minutes, from introit to closing hymns.

Dausgaard’s intention was to show what all of Rachmaninov’s work owed to the ancient chants of the Russian Orthodox Church, so the afternoon had begun with the singers processing the length of the balcony singing those as a prelude to what became a stunning performance of the Piano Concerto No.3. The theatre of that opening had the musical effect of mesmerising restraint in the opening movement, carefully maintained as Dausgaard paid tellingly close attention to both soloist and his strings. Technically Abduraimov was superb and the orchestral playing made up for any lack of emotion early on, and even after the fireworks the pianist and the conductor brought the same delicacy to the finale.

More chant preceded the Symphonic Dances, which may draw themes from liturgy but are pure golden age Hollywood in their sweeping strings and eloquent instrumental solo voices – or perhaps more correctly much film music of the era was heavily indebted to Rachmaninov. He was writing the valedictory score of his life, and Dausgaard made sure all its drama made the journey across the footlights.