Ravel in Glasgow

2006-11-27 / The Scotsman / Kenneth Walton

BBC Scottish Symphony
City Halls, Glasgow

For the second week in succession, a Scandinavian conductor had the BBC SSO playing the way it should – with real fire in its belly and a sense of genuine commitment and enjoyment. This latest programme in the SSO’s Sibelius Revisited series put on display the orchestra’s new associate guest conductor, young Swede Stefan Solyom.

It was a sensational performance of Sibelius’s First Symphony that was direct, electrifyingly, emotionally exhaustive and utterly gripping. Solyom gave the brass and wind plenty of leeway, but they played their part astutely and the impact was spine-tingling.

At the forefront, though, was Solyom’s palpable dynamism. He exudes character, which translated into musical charisma the moment he fired up the orchestra. This is, without a doubt, an inspired appointment by the SSO.

Thursday’s programme opened with the Sibelius symphonic poem Night-Ride and Sunrise, and in this, too, Solyom elicited a chilly exuberance from the band.

There was nothing understated about pianist Angela Hewitt’s hot-blooded performance of Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto. It had clarity and sparkle, poise and panache, delivered with the pristine articulation she is noted for.