RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Exactly twenty-four hours after the BBC SSO’s carelessly-produced live-streamed concert from the City Halls on Thursday, the RSNO put our national broadcasting corporation in the shade with the latest release in its Friday night pre-recorded digital season, imaginatively filmed, supremely presented and with first-rate sound quality.

Sharp eyes may have spotted a curious irony in the final credits. The RSNO’s producer was listed as Andrew Trinick, a figure more familiar to many as senior producer with the BBC SSO. 

This RSNO package looked splendid in the orchestra’s clean, accommodating auditorium. A double dose of Beethoven proved a powerful musical pairing. More critically, preceding the First Symphony and Violin Concerto with brief introductory thoughts from members of the orchestra, conductor Thomas Sondergard and soloist Midori, contributed a welcoming mix of warmth, sophistication, anticipation and excitement that we’re all missing in the absence of live concert attendance. 

In that context Midori was able to share some personal insight on Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, which she recently recorded with the Festival Strings Lucerne on Warner Classics. Better still, in the first of two appearances she is making in the RSNO’s 10-concert series, was a performance that cut a telling deal between cerebral detachment and instinctive poeticism.

If that gave a certain stoicism to the exposition of the key themes, it was out of such earnest intellectual pronouncements that so many luminous deliberations took flight. The sheer inward intensity of Midori’s thoughts – as in the searing potency of her opening utterances, or the incisive precision of the cadenza – was also their emotional catalyst. A work as substantial as this requires such helpful moments of relief.

In Thomas Sondergard she had a solid and empathetic collaborator. From the opening metronomic timpani motif – clear as a bell on period timps – to the throwaway frivolity of the final bars, his handling of the orchestra was as punchy as it was precise. A lengthy concerto never once outstayed its welcome.

To the same ends, the foregoing First Symphony went like the clappers and seemed over in a flash, in particular the second movement which adhered, rightly, as much to the “con moto” in its title as the “Andante cantabile”. An alert RSNO responded with all-round virtuosity, feisty strings and piquant wind and brass breathing fire into the Haydnesque outer movements, bombastic outbursts discharging lightning strikes into the hurtling Menuetto.

And all done in the best possible taste. Whoever said we’d be fed up with Beethoven by this point in his 250th anniversary year? 
Ken Walton