RSNO's Grieg's Piano Concerto, Usher Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Sibelius, Nightride and Sunrise; Grieg, Piano Concerto; Nielsen, Symphony No 4 The Inextinguishable
John Storgårds (conductor, photographed), Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
Running time

Imagine an overnight sleigh ride across Finland finishing with the sight of sunrise - and that's Nightride and Sunrise composed by Sibelius in 1908. After a brief initial excitement the strings were in obstinato mode, probably not a gallop but more a canter, that went on and on as the journey progressed through the night. If the Royal Scottish National Orchestra players thought it tedious, they shouldn't - for their skill achieved a really atmospheric tone poem. As dawn broke we heard a dramatic sunrise. It was a particularly refreshing and inspirational concert opener.

Earlier and upstairs in the Upper Circle bar, Katherine Wren (Royal Scottish National Orchestra viola) had let us in on an interesting conversation with the soloist for Grieg's Piano Concerto. Christian Ihle Hadland was born in Stavanger in 1983. At one point the conversation explored how he was unexpectedly chosen in 2011 to be one of that year's six BBC New Generation Artists and in particular the broad wide-ranging music making it allowed him. He performed the Grieg for us in a thoughtful and constrained manner - without the flamboyance others have thrown our way in the past. The audience enjoyed it and his short encore too.

Word had come through from Glasgow that the Orchestra was enjoying their first experience of rehearsals under conductor John Storgårds. As a highly regarded violin player and Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic they learned what we were to find out - that he was the ideal choice for the evening's programme.

Neilson gave his Symphony No 4 the title The Inextinguishable. We heard a massively dynamic and energetic symphony representing what Neilson thought was indeed life-force. Its four movements were merged into one. In its just over thirty minutes it built up to the memorable conclusion - but not before the second timpani player who had sat quietly unemployed to this moment was seen tuning up. Across the stage the two timpanist fought out a life-force battle. That was the memorable end to a fascinating concert.

Performance: Friday 1st May 2015 at 7.30pm