Classical review: BBCSSO/Litton, City Halls, Glasgow

City Halls, Glasgow

Americana rubbed shoulders with Russian romanticism in this programme from Andrew Litton and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra - though at the core of the performance was a unifying element of glamour. Litton, ever the affable American, brought polish and energy to the music. The result was exciting, although there was a certain slickness to the proceedings - a brashness on the part of the BBCSSO brass, which at times threatened to overwhelm the rest of the orchestra.

Following the UK premiere of John Mackey's Redline Tango, a crowd-pleasing piece underpinned by the heartbeat of the tango, the main work in the first half was Gershwin's Piano Concerto. With little by way of musical development, the work seldom hangs together convincingly; here, however, Litton made the best possible case, not lingering on any of the slower sections but driving the music on from one tune to the next. In this respect he was aided by soloist Stewart Goodyear, whose remarkable, rapid-fire precision was matched by his extraordinarily hard-edged, crystalline tone. This held even in the slow movement, where a softer-toned, more generous approach might have been expected. It was a singular interpretation - thrilling in an unyielding kind of way.

Though the sleazy, jazzy sound the BBCSSO brought to the Gershwin had vanished when the orchestra returned for Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, the energy remained. This was an undeniably high-octane account, with Litton wringing every ounce of drama from those opening hammer-blow chords, particularly when they returned at the end of the symphony. Less convincing was the emotional core of the work; there was gloss in spades, but it came, perhaps, at the expense of a sense of depth.

Contributor

Rowena Smith

The GuardianTramp

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