This season being the last season of a Stèphane Denève fronted RSNO one could tell that after a hugely successful 7 year partnership they were going to go out with a bang and Friday’s concert certainly lived up to such expectations.

The concert opened with Debussy’s three ‘Images’ (French for ‘Pictures’), these pieces offer musical imitations of three countries: England, Spain and France. The first piece entitled Gigues, originally entitled Gigues Tristes meaning ‘sad dances’ is a musical representation of England in which Debussy includes a reworking of the old Tyneside piece ‘The Keel Row’. The RSNO executed the piece wonderfully sending conductor Denève’s brown locks aflight, fully capturing the arrant sorrow of the piece played by the oboe d’amore.

Continuing their musical journey to Spain, I must say, the RSNO somewhat lost their way. The 2nd piece Ibèria, though wonderfully evocative of sleepy Spanish villages seemed rather lacklustre and monotonous. The first 2 movements provided little in terms of excitement with the 3rd, Le matin d’un jour de fète awakening the audience slightly. Upon reaching Debussy’s homeland of France with Rondes de printemps things started to get more interesting. In this movement Debussy utilised two French folk tunes "Nous n'irons plus au bois" and "Do, do l'enfant do" to spectacular effect.

After the interval Denève regaled the audience, telling us that pianist Nikolai Ligansky learnt the entirity of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto in all but 3 days! It was at that moment that I found out what an entire concert hall set aghast looks like. Lugansky played the Allegro ma non tanto with a fantastic exuberance, hammering down upon the Steinway with astounding precision. One thing I noted was a slight lack of definition from the strings but in honesty this wasn’t the worst thing to happen as it ony allowed Lugansky’s playing to be even more prominent.

Rather remarkably it seemed to be that the most heartfelt parts of the piece were those that were slow and with few notes rather than the more animated parts. The 2nd movement was incredible, smiles spread through the audience like wildfire due to the strings striking out some notes before a marvellous crescendo. The uproarious clapping that ensued was tremendous. A great many people stood in ovation for what was a supreme perfomance from Lugansky.

As an encore he finished the concerto with it’s Finale (alla breve).

Thought the first half left much to be desired the second half certainly redeemed the concert and left one with a smile and much enjoyment!

Rhiordan Langan-Fortune, aged 16

Royal Scottish National Orchestra Stephane Deneve, conductor Nikolai Lugansky, Piano Debussy, 3 Images pour orchestre Rachmaninov, Piano concerto no. 3 in D minor, Op.30 Usher Hall Friday, 7th October, 2011