City Hall, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

Four Stars

IN a largely-electrifying concert on Thursday night by the BBC SSO, with the inimitable, totally-dependable Ilan Volkov at the helm, and the orchestra at white heat,several features stood out. It would be remiss of us not to throw a spotlight on Scottish composer Tom Harrold. He’s in his mid-twenties, and he ‘s been around for a while. But I would suggest that in his new piece, Nightfires, commissioned by the BBC and premiered on Thursday in a blazing performance with the SSO using its heavy artillery to maximum advantage, this young man has made a huge mark on the music scene.

The flaring, punchy impact of Nightfires, which gives way to a breathtaking, stomping momentum and a thwackingly-rhythmic sense of drive, was gob-smacking in its ferocity and the composer’s certainty in what was saying, and how confidently he was saying it. Even when the pressure lifted as the violence and action melted into music for a solo cello, the intensity was enormous . I’d dare to suggest that Nightfires, with its incredible seismic heaving, is among the most exciting pieces I’ve heard from a Scottish composer in the last 25 years; since Isobel Gowdie, in fact. And this week, when the Royal Albert Hall Proms are announced, you might watch out for the name of Tom Harrold.

Viviane Hagner’s performance of Unsuk Chin’s over-long Violin Concerto was meticulously and brilliantly detailed, but I could detect neither warmth nor spirit in the music. Tchaikovsky’s Manfred, on the other hand, was brimming with passion in a powerhouse SSO performance where Volkov seemed to have the pulse and intensity of the music in his soul.