Korngold’s Violin Concerto Headlines a Wonderful Evening with Storgårds and the RSNO


Hermann, Korngold, Tchaikovsky: Baibe Skride (violin), Royal Scottish National Orchestra / John Storgårds (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 15.12.2017. (SRT)

HermannLove Scene from Vertigo

KorngoldViolin Concerto

TchaikovskySymphony No.5

John Storgårds’s work with the RSNO brings out the best in both of them, and I love their now regular concerts together. Among their collaborators, he’s one of the most visually dynamic presences on the podium, and the musical chemistry he produces is always pretty special. His rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 was typically big-boned and exciting, with dramatic sweep and climaxes full to bursting; but what also impressed me was the dynamism of the sound, Storgårds managing to shade back a big orchestral wash with responsiveness and musical integrity. The opening, for example, was dark as night, with baleful clarinet sound against dark, throbbing strings, but this changed into an allegro of dramatic sweep that was borne up by some sensational string playing, throbbing with emotion but never gloopy or indulgent. Those strings bore the emotional weight of the whole work, full of fire in the first movement and blazing with majesty in finale, stopping off at a highly urbane waltz en route. Underneath them was a brass section that seemed to be itching to get off the leash, bitingly precise during the motto theme’s interruptions in the slow movement, and full of grandeur in the finale’s coda. The high point of the whole symphony, however, came, as it should do, with a truly sensational horn solo in the slow movement. Played by principal horn Christopher Gough, one of the finest additions to the orchestra in recent years, it had such bell-like clarity, such beauty, but also such fragility and a heart-stopping sense of transience. Wow!

Storgårds’s control of the work is impressive, and he generated such momentum that I could forgive some lapses of ensemble and some slightly jarring lurches in the tempo. However, the real treats of this evening came in the first half. Who knew that the love scene from Vertigo could sound so full of yearning and sheer symphonic power? The strings moved from frigid mystery to overwhelming sweep, Hermann seeming to channel Tristan und Isolde while finding remarkable psychological colour at the same time. Then Baiba Skride stepped forward with a completely delightful rendition of the Korngold concerto, cutting a confident, assertive presence while remaining totally in tune with the musical structure, pressing forward thrillingly in the finale but giving a slow movement of unhurried rapture. Meanwhile Storgårds deployed the orchestra with the subtlety of a painter, dabbing flecks of colour that never upstaged the soloist, while ensuring that the telling details, such as the first movement celesta, were never lost in the texture. He then let rip on a gloriously OTT finale, with a second theme that seemed to blaze out its own sunlight. The final minutes of the concert created one of those moments that lifts you out of your seat, making me wonder why on earth the concerto so infrequently programmed. With its singable melodies, dazzling virtuosity and luscious textures, it surely deserves to be on everybody’s list of the 20th Century’s greatest hits.

Simon Thompson

For more about the RNSO click here.

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! The Piccadilly Chamber Music Series in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! I Musicanti’s Alexandra and the Russians at St Johns Smith Square in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • UPDATED! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House Announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • UPDATED! SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS CHOOSE THEIR ‘BEST OF 2017’ __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s Kamara.hu __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Russian Ballet Icons Gala at the London Coliseum on 25 February __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H