Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

four stars

Following concerts by the BBC Scottish and the SCO, a third night in a row in Glasgow’s City Hall would, in truth, have been preferable to hear Saturday’s concert by the RSNO with Sir Roger Norrington. The veteran period performance specialist, working from a swivel chair without baton or a note of printed music, has a magical intimate relationship with our national orchestra and the bigger hall is not the ideal environment for that, even if it is the one the partnership has always known.

Schumann’s Fourth and Third Symphonies, and especially the latter, which is in fact later, are the troubled composer at the peak of his powers, and the coherence and scale of the Rhenish would make its placing after the interval more sensible in any event. Norrington’s deep knowledge of the narrative of these works was apparent throughout, the movements not so much chapters as very long, carefully punctuated, sentences, full of arresting adjectival clauses. It is not easy to spot how he is instructing the players in the details of tempo and dynamics, but there is no doubt that the communication is happening. Regardless of any deficiencies in the acoustic, there was a lovely clarity in the winds at the start of the second movement of the Fourth and precision playing from horns and brass at the end of the Third.

Violinist Francesca Dego, who played Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 4 in D between the symphonies, is tall and elegant, and her assertive playing was as stylish. There was a particular moment of communication with the front desk of the RSNO cellos that seemed to sum up the chamber music approach of the entire evening, and came close to transforming the concert hall into a rather more intimate drawing room.