Such a lethal emotional cocktail
"The Herald", Glasgow, April 7, 2000
BBC Scottish Symphony,
City Hall, Glasgow
Michael Tumelty

 
IT'S not often that I'm stuck for words, but half an hour after the close of the pulverising performance of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony, given last night by the BBC SSO with Israeli conductor Yoav Talmi as the first concert in their short 1900: Birth of a Century series, I was still sitting in front of this column, absolutely shattered, nothing written.
It was the third movement - the finale, in effect - of this unfinished symphony that did it. It was at once the natural climax and the key to Talmi's version. It was a lethal emotional cocktail: an extraordinary mix of tension and catharsis, with Bruckner's wildest sonic imaginings (the surreal woodwind writing, the potent brew of Wagner tubas, French horns, and the heavy brass) all given flight, and the music delivered, not as a cathedral in sound, but an intense emotional drama.
And that last aspect - emotion rather than architecture - underpinned the entire interpretation, from the swift, dramatically effective momentum of the first movement (no wallowing), to the grit, bite, and Beethovenian doggedness of the second. But that finale - it pinned this listener to his seat and featured, if I'm not mistaken in the afterglow, some of the most magnificent orchestral playing I've heard from the SSO in a while. The small crowd (around 600) gave it a huge ovation. Rightly so.