Review: RSNO, Music of Star Wars, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Jonathan Geddes, Four stars

MUCH like the Star Wars franchise itself, the RSNO’s John Williams celebrations show no signs of slowing down. This year’s event being centred around one set of films (with a few exceptions) did mean the diversity of their previous Williams shows was lost a little, but it also reaffirmed the composer’s skill at weaving together different threads in his scores, from the always thrilling bombast of the opening theme and the dynamic The Flag Parade, to gentler character pieces.

Conductor Richard Kaufman is a regular visitor to Scotland now, and possesses a genuine delight at the RSNO’s ability, something that particularly stood out during those character moments – the skittish playfulness interjected into Yoda’s Theme, the hints of the dark side that emerged during Anakin’s Theme and the romantic sweep of Han and the Princess.

A spinetingling Close Encounters of the Third Kind suite provided a diversion from adventures in a galaxy far, far away, although a lengthy suite of variations on Happy Birthday, originally composed by Williams for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, skirted rather too much towards self indulgence.

Yet an arsenal of heavy hitters were vividly brought to life, including The Rebellion Is Reborn from last year’s The Last Jedi, a typically powerful offering of hope, and you didn’t need to know your Boba Fett from your Nien Nunb to be impressed by the encore’s Imperial March, delivered with black-hearted directness.

Despite that unmistakeable power (of the dark side), the night’s finest moment occurred earlier, with the Cantina Band. A jazzy, uptempo bop, it was a delightfully flippant contrast to the grandeur of the rest of the night. The denizens of that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Mos Eisley, would surely have approved of the swinging panache with which it was performed.