RCS Symphonia


Stevenson Hall, Glasgow

Why write about a concert which has already happened? Play, literature or film reviews might help you to choose whether to buy a book, or attend a performance. But concerts are usually one-offs, so recommendations are surely less important than impressions. Here are some thoughts, then, on the inaugural performance of the RCS Symphonia, when Bach’s Suite in D No. 3 and Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen were performed in Stevenson Hall.

I wasn’t expecting to find the Bach so engaging and enjoyable but it really was light, tasty and fizzy, with David Watkin constantly adding air into the mix and encouraging thought and direction into the positioning of each next entry. The famous Air (Hamlet cigars) showed off how special long notes can be if they are given the salt of direction rather than the sugar of vibrato, indeed the whole work showed off a wonderful silvery tone, without any vibrato at all being used. Though there was a wonderful sense of dance throughout, and no doubt because of that, I particularly enjoyed the final chords of each movement which were level and true as horizons at sea.

Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings could not have been more different. It was written in 1945 when the war Germany started had destroyed most of what Strauss must have held dear. The plangent late romantic string sound of the work is so beautiful, I’m tempted to say I could listen to it all day, but in fact I was ready for it to end when it did. The live experience was marvelous, however, and such was the richness of the musical texture that it was good being able to watch as well as to listen.

There was a casual vibe in the hall, mostly filled with students and staff from RCS, and it was a short concert at a time of night when neither work nor transport should be an issue. So, to contradict my first point, if you see the next one being advertised – keep the date free and go along!

Reviewer : Catherine Eunson

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