Classical concert review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Donald Runnicles
The Scotsman

By Kenneth Walton

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
City Halls, Glasgow *****

Season openers don't come much more thrilling than this. Great music, a supreme line-up of soloists, and a conductor who knows instinctively how to squeeze the operatic juice out of a violin concerto and how to hone the orchestral landscape of a Wagner opera, made this knock-out programme by the BBC SSO a night to remember.

The man in charge was Donald Runnicles, and the music was an inspired and effective pairing of Sibelius's Violin Concerto and Act 1 of Wagner's second Ring opera, Die Walküre. For the Sibelius he was joined by a young Norwegian violinist, Vilde Frang, whose reputation has been built on her recordings. Live, she proved how impressive and idiosyncratic she can be.

From the ethereal whisper of the opening, to moments of red hot fervour and technical brilliance, her performance was radical and gripping, underpinned by a score that, in its darker sonorities, is strikingly Wagnerian.

Which was a brilliant segue into Die Walküre, and an operatic act – the consummation of Siegmund and Sieglinde – that stands magnificently on its own. Runnicles drove it swiftly and purposefully, supported by the breathtaking trio of Heidi Skelton (Sieglinde), Stuart Skelton (Siegmund) and Reinhard Hagen (Hunding), all of whom gave this concert performance a true sense of theatre and occasion. The SSO obliged with alacrity. The same programme is at the Usher Hall tomorrow. Miss it at your peril.