A hard working concert from the excellent Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Peter Oundjian proved to be a very harmonious mix of mellow works, kicking off with a spritely early work by Messiaen, the Hymne from 1932. The remarkable thing about Messiaen is that his distinctive melodic and harmonic profile was formed at the start of his career. Over time the language became more complex but essentially the same, so much so that the long violin melody which appears twice in Hymne could have easily appeared in his final orchestral work Éclairs sur l'au-delà. Hymne sounds like a transitional work, unique but still uncertain about how to combine those Messiaenic ingredients. This was certainly a committed performance that did its best for the work, with a particularly impressive display of refined string tones.

Peter Oundjian © Sian Richards
Peter Oundjian
© Sian Richards

Likewise the Mozart Piano concerto no. 27 in B flat major that followed, was notable for its refinement in all departments. The young Russian soloist Igor Levit proved to be an intensely sensitive and responsive interpreter of one of Mozart’s valedictory final works. Always alive to the small-scale emotional complexities in the work, he nevertheless opted for an understated musicality and delicacy of touch. While very much a concert grand performance of the 21st century he seemed acutely aware of the classical sensibilities of the 18th century.

Every movement was tastefully characterised by soloist and orchestra, from the loose limbed opening Allegro with its moment of anxiety in the development section, to the vivacious life enhancing finale. The central Larghetto, however, was the heart of the performance and here Levit produced the most ravishing line, often in dialogue with the on-form RSNO woodwind section. A cheeky Shostakovich encore (the Dances of the Dolls) rounded things off with a smile.

Bruckner Seventh Symphony is arguably his most satisfying work in the form, if not the greatest. In this performance Peter Oundjian and RSNO certainly had the measure of the ebb and flow of the music allowing it to blossom naturally. Again the string tone was of particular note, rich and pliable in the first movements beautiful first theme. In the slow movement, the tempo was spot on and the brass were outstandingly restrained until the great climactic moment, linked to the death of Wagner, when the whole orchestra united in grief. The Scherzo was full of character and rhythmic point, a welcome contrast and a transition to the unusually lively and lightweight finale. The build up to the final coda was handled expertly by Oundjian, with the brass impressive again in the blazing final bars.