City Halls, Glasgow

Rosie Davies

four stars

THE opening night of the BBC SSO’s 2017/18 Season was also the first in its season-long Composer Roots series, delving into composers’ influences in order to hear their most well-known works with “new ears”. It’s perhaps ironic that this phrase, and this concept, has become so au fait amongst any forward-thinking orchestra; but still, very much appreciated when the result is something as affecting and effective as Dausgaard’s clever, evening-long structural reference.

If Beethoven’s symphony leads up to that first note of the solo bass, then Dausgaard’s programme was a knowing mirror. The first half built gradually, both in terms of forces and cohesion between sections – the latter not, I’m assuming, deliberate, but adding nonetheless to a feeling of understatement, as if we hadn’t quite arrived at the main event.

It was a surprise when the Beethoven began in a similar vein; pleasantly expressive, particularly in a gorgeous third movement, but not settling on any definitive character, and never really letting go.

As the very first, very fast, bars of the fourth movement burst into colour, everything fell into place. It was as if a different orchestra were playing, and led by a different conductor, and what a pay off Dausgaard's sophisticated patience delivered. Each element was tamed, teased and contoured with personality and care to create a suddenly distinctive, exhilarating performance. Whether we were listening with new ears or not, his positively overwhelming attention to detail, particularly in the shapely phrasing of the excellent Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Voices, certainly re-affirmed its magnificent, ecstatic grandeur.