Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

four stars

IF the jury is still out on the question of whether The Future is the lost masterpiece by Ralph Vaughan Williams that composer and conductor Martin Yates claims, there is no doubt that it was presented in the best possible context for its World Premiere. With two more familiar works of the composer, and another pair of favourites of the same period, his confidence in placing it at the culmination of the programme could not have been clearer. The RSNO chorus and soprano Ilona Domnich gave a superb account of it too, even if the choir’s diction of the Matthew Arnold text was a couple of notches clearer than the soloist’s. The orchestra was also on fire all night, with sparkling solo work from Andrew McLean, leading the horns, and first oboe Peter Dykes in particular.

Stepping out from her leader’s chair, violin soloist Sharon Roffman gave a refined and subtle performance of The Lark Ascending, in what the attentive large audience all expected to have been her last concert before beginning her maternity leave. With its gentle folk-fiddle colourings, and sensitive support from her colleagues in the strings and winds, this was a beautifully-focused rendition of the popular classic.

It was framed by Vaughan Williams’s Overture to The Wasps and Stravinsky’s Firebird in its 1945 incarnation for the American market, which includes all the best bits in its pithy half-hour. There is something distinctly Hollywood about the way the transition from the Berceuse Lullaby to the Finale works in this score, and that suits this orchestra very well.

Yates preceded the choral work he has completed and orchestrated with the lovely Pavane pour une infant defunte by Ravel, with whom Vaughan Williams studied around the time he was working on The Future, which also revealed his confidence in the melodies of the rediscovered work. It should certainly find a home in the repertoire of choral societies in Britain and beyond, but I wonder if the composer’s own neglect of it stemmed from a recognition that his choice of Arnold’s words, and even the title itself, meant that it was a little dated even a century ago.