City Hall, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

five stars

WHAT a belter of a concert, and a supremely sophisticated one, on Thursday afternoon from the BBC SSO, with towering SSO debuts from both conductor and soloist and superlative playing from the orchestra.

The conductor was Nicholas Carter, principal conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and a Donald Runnicles protégé who has worked with the great man at the Deutsche Opera and at Runnicles’ Wyoming festival. But Carter, neat, supple and flexible in his direction, is very much his own man, as he demonstrated in Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, where the light, fluid and pristine clarity of the SSO’s super-articulate playing reflected the certainty of direction from the young man at the front.

Carter, for all his cracking timing, is no metronome on legs. There is a fabulously flexible quality in his pulse, which was reflected warmly and dramatically in the orchestral accompaniment to the gorgeous performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto, gloriously played with a seductive glow and some fierce intensity by Ukranian Valeriy Sokolov. The concerto is among the most overtly beautiful of Barber’s works, but yesterday’s performance from soloist, conductor, and a gleaming SSO had an unforgettable sheen. An encore was demanded, and Sokolov produced more than the goods in Fritz Kreisler’s electric Recitative and Scherzo.

To cap it all, this magic young conductor and the orchestra produced a wonderfully broad, noble, and calmly majestic account of Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony, characterised as much by its inner momentum as by its inimitable stillness of atmosphere. I’m no fan of the music, but this performance was deeply impressive and profoundly moving.