Tag Archives: Midori

RSNO / Midori

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Some things are worth waiting for, in this case Detlev Glanert’s intensely beautiful Violin Concerto No 2. It was originally earmarked for UK premiere by its dedicatee, American-Japanese violinist  Midori, as part of the RSNO’s 2020/21 season. When Covid struck the planned world premiere in Tokyo was cancelled, making a revised Scotland performance date last January, albeit streamed, the world premiere. That, in turn, proved unworkable. 

Finally it has happened, and last weekend’s Edinburgh and Glasgow performances gave us the very first airing of a work Glanert has subtitled “To the Immortal Beloved”, revealing its inspirational source as Beethoven’s famously passionate declaration of love, a letter written but never posted to a mystery woman, thought to be Josephine Brunsvik, in 1812.

Glanert takes three extracts from that letter as the emotional springboard for each of his three uninterrupted movements. In this performance, conducted by RSNO music director Thomas Søndergård, the key cadenzas appeared to have structural significance as apogees of the integral sections. Midori certainly treated them as such, the potency, and at times vehemence, of her playing symbolising emphatically their referential import.

But it was the journey to each of these that offered the true substance, an opening characterised by fitful gestures and antagonistic timpani instilling a dimension of unease that operates variously within the entire work, countered by a calming stream of lyrical consciousness that first materialises in the soloist’s initial appearance. 

Through the initial soul-searching turbulence, the ocean of calm that presents a near-idyllic respite at its heart, that magical moment where Glanert wraps the quietest of pianissimos by the soloist in a shroud of scintillating percussion, and in a home straight that reasserts the concerto’s underlying Romanticism, Midori and the orchestra performed with equal measures of heightened sensitivity and rubescent heat. 

It was, of course, just one work in an artful programme aligned to the current COP26 conference in Glasgow. Besides the Glanert – justified by Midori’s personal role as a United Nations Peace Ambassador – Søndergård conducted insightful performances of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s electroacoustic menagerie Swans Migrating – the final short movement from his so-called Concerto for Birds, Cantus Arcticus – and Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 From the New World

The Rautavaara, combining a crescendoing swarm of taped birdsong with the RSNO’s expressive live performance, was the perfect mood-setter for the Glanert. As for the Dvorak, it was revelatory in the way Søndergård found new points to consider despite the symphony’s well-worn familiarity. It was as if he had taken fine sandpaper to its rougher edges, revealing as a result sensitivities in the scoring that are too often ridden roughshod over. 

That, and Søndergård’s instinctive ebbing and flowing of the tempi, guaranteed a symphonic experience that, to coin a topical phrase in Glasgow at the moment, eschewed “blah-blah-blah” in favour of fresh and productive outcomes.

Ken Walton

Available to view online until 31 January, purchasable at www.rsno.org.uk

RSNO/Sondergard

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