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BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

03.04.13
Matthias Pintscher
Herald Scotland

By Michael Tumelty

5 stars

IF you wanted to follow a strand in the BBC SSO's dazzling concert on Thursday night with its artist-in-association, Matthias Pintscher, conducting, it was laid out for you, from the literalism of Weber's Invitation To The Dance, to the myriad dance and waltz implications of Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus Overture and the battering, driving finale of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, "the apotheosis of the dance", as Wagner described it.

On the other hand, the "concept", if I might call it that, was a useful tool which allowed two masterworks, usually only found these days in Gubbay-type programmes, to sneak back into a proper, full-blown classical concert and receive full-on performances from a band playing its mind out for the conductor. Whatever the perspective, it worked extremely well, not least because Pintscher has an idiomatic grasp of the Viennese tug-and-pull ethos of the music.

In between these came an astonishing performance by Johannes Moser of Lutoslawski's wonderful Cello Concerto, a multi-faceted character piece that essentially boils down to a David and Goliath battle between soloist and elements of the orchestra, not least the brass and especially the brazen trumpets, which persistently try to shriek and blast the cello into submission.

Ultimately they fail, and the cello's near-serene implacability prevails. The performance, packed with wit, humour, lyricism, violence and electric action scenes, might just have featured the best cello playing I have encountered.

Pintscher's Beethoven Seven, with the band at white heat, was brilliantly gauged in every movement, the drive powering up from the bottom of the orchestra, and loads held in reserve, which Pintscher unleashed in a whirlwind, unstoppable performance of the finale.