BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

Miranda Heggie

four stars

WITH a world premiere, and two major orchestral blockbusters, it’s little wonder that the BBC SSO’s concert on Thursday evening had sold out weeks in advance. A BBC commission, The Air, Turning was penned by the young British composer Edmund Finnis, who is currently composer-in-association with the London Contemporary Orchestra and whose violin concerto was shortlisted for an RPS music award last year. Inspired by Scottish poet Robin Robertson’s Finding the Keys, this piece was an ethereally beautiful exploration of the transient nature of the wind and its interactions with the natural world.

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto begins with an arresting crescendo, Ilan Volkov’s galvanising conducting bringing out a full-bodied, rich sound from the orchestra. Steven Osborne, having stepped in at short notice for an indisposed Yevgeny Sudbin, gave a profound and meticulous interpretation of this great work. An unashamedly dramatic cadenza in the first movement was followed by lush, lyrical warmth in the second, which was brimming with potential energy as Osborne stretched out on Rachmaninov’s melodies. The final Allegro Scherzando movement was fiery and vigorous as the music skirted between the major and minor key.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade suite opened with a dark and brooding undercurrent, with leader Laura Samuels’ solo flourishes taking on an illuminated, honeyed quality. Named after the legendary Arabian folklore heroine, Rimsky-Korsakov’s evocative motifs are passed round a number of solo instruments, showcasing much of the individual talents from each section of the orchestra, from Julian Roberts’ warm bassoon playing and Rosemary Lock’s spritely piccolo to a taut, bright percussion section. Volkov was on incredible form, commanding the orchestra through a vivid and exciting portrayal of this colourful work.