BBC SSO, City Hall, Glasgow

10.04.10
Donald Runnicles
The Herald

By Michael Tumelty

Let’s be democratic.

Everybody involved in the BBC SSO’s opening concert on Thursday night gets five stars, a metaphorical bottle of champagne and thunderous applause such as can resound only in the City Hall. (Well they did get that at least.)

What an awesome concert with which to open a season. Not since the 1980s, when folk poured into Candleriggs following Neeme Jarvi’s Shostakovich concerts and stood there in wonderment, have I witnessed anything quite like it. Well, it happened again on Thursday following a boiling performance of the complete first act of Wagner’s Valkyrie, with a small cast of three rock-solid, bullet-proof soloists, conductor Donald Runnicles at his most ferociously concentrated, and an augmented BBC SSO, led by the commanding James Clark, playing as though this was the single opportunity on their last day on the planet.

Everything was dead right. If a concert performance of an opera is this good, this supreme, you totally forget that it is un-staged. The drama lies wholly within the music and the performance.
And what performances from these huge voices, with Heidi Melton’s Sieglinde and the astounding Siegmund of Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton a totally magnetic, irresistible combination as Fate hurtled them into a future all too clearly delineated by the orchestra in this genius composition; and the sidelined figure of Hunding was sung, I thought with great dignity, by Deutsche Opera bass Reinhard Hagen.

The entire experience was gobsmackingly wonderful.

But it wasn’t all; young Norwegian violinist Wilde Frang wove a mesmeric narrative from Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, beginning with a whisper before disclosing the passionate steel core of her playing. She’s here again this week, playing Brahms. Miss it not.

Star rating: *****