John Whitener's pre-concert talk in the Upper Circle Bar was full of cheer and joy and when he demonstrated on the tuba his audience was delighted. He gave a useful insight into the three Russian works on the evening's programme and on the larger than usual role of the tuba in the first and last.
Prokofiev's Russian Overture was a curious mix - indeed the programme notes called it a madcap romp. Interesting may be, but unsettling as the opener. It then took the conductor Paul Daniel, who was chatting to the audience as the piano was being put in place, to tell us that he had not conducted the Russian Overture before - nor had the Orchestra ever played it.
Kirill Gerstein was the well chosen soloist for Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No 2. Born in Russia in 1979 he has been an American citizen since 2003. Initially a jazz specialist he moved over to classical and has gone on to win some of the most prestigious awards open to a pianist. I loved in particular his interpretation of the wonderfully romantic second movement. Not surprisingly the audience loved it all and were treated to Felix Blumenfeld's Etude for the Left Hand as encore.
It was Guy Spielman's clarinet that was so captivating in the third movement of Rachmaninov's Symphony No 2. As Paul Daniel had told us earlier, Rachmaninov's first symphony had been a disaster, so some years later and with a lot of persuasion his second had to be a winner. And a winner it was, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on great form to confirm this for us. Such had been the power of the pre-concert talk that I kept casting my eye across to the tuba - with fascination.
Even though the Russian Overture was new and, to me, puzzling, this was not a reason to deem the concert anything but hugely enjoyable and a credit to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Concert: Friday 5th December 2014 at 7.30pm