RSNO/Sondergard, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Michael Tumelty

Five stars

NOW THAT, on Saturday night, was an RSNO concert for the memory banks. It was a concert with everything. It had the classics, from Sibelius's Karelia Suite and Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, to the unfamiliar, in the form of Carl Nielsen's Violin Concerto, a rarity, but a staggeringly-pluralistic piece with immense appeal, as well as all the depth you might seek in a masterpiece.

It was a concert, moreover, spearheaded by two consistently-reliable, imaginative, top-drawer musicians in the presence of conductor Thomas Sondergard, who has not put a foot wrong since the day and hour he took up his principal guest conductorship of the RSNO, and Canadian violinist James Ehnes, a near-perfect, feet-on-the-ground musician who has not sullied a single phrase he has played in Scotland with a blemish of indulgence.

What can we say about their playing? In Sondergard's hands Karelia came off the page as fresh, thrilling and goose-bump-raising as the day I first heard it, some 60 years ago, while his Eroica, in the seething development section of its epochal first movement, was almost seismic in its upheaval: in great Eroica performances, such as this one, you can feel the tectonic plates of musical structure shifting as orthodox boundaries, right down to the punctuation of the language, are chiselled by Beethoven into expansion.

James Ehnes's multi-faceted performance of the Nielsen concerto caught the essence of the piece, in its wit, its flashing drama, its high-speed and abrupt changes of temperament, its tenderness and lyricism, and its almost bloody-minded individuality which insists on the mercurial music following its own star and no established template. A splendid concert.