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Thomas Søndergård & RSNO - Prokofiev 5 & Sibelius 7 (Live) - The Herald

Decisions about what music an orchestra takes on tour are weighty ones. The choices must reflect the story of the ensemble, showcase the best talents of the current line-up, and – crucially with a relatively recent appointment as music director like Thomas Sondergard – the skills of the conductor.

Sondergard introduced the Symphony No 5 by calling Prokofiev a man of the theatre, and then proceeded to direct it in a way that showed how that was also true of himself. This was the conductor at his most energetic and impassioned, and it drew a corresponding performance from the orchestra. Guest first clarinet Matt Glendening was on fine form, but the work is a vehicle for a full orchestra at full tilt and the RSNO is currently firing on all cylinders.

Although composed 20 years earlier, the Seventh Symphony of Sibelius, which opened the programme, is a more radical work. It is as pivotal to the heritage of the RSNO as the orchestra’s affinity for Russian repertoire, because of Alexander Gibson’s complete cycle of the symphonies in concert and in the recording studio. Under the current Scandinavian music director, the orchestra is setting a Sibelius standard again, the richness of the multi-layered music blooming majestically.

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The Herald
25 March 2019