Thursday, February 23, 2023

City Halls, Glasgow

Seated at a piano, Ryan Wigglesworth started with the Bach, a moderate-tempo first movement, shapely and crisply enunciated from the soloist, slightly plodding and short of light and shade if collegiate from the ensemble of accompanying strings (Laura Samuel, leader), the Finale livelier as well as bouncy, with the central, harmonically surprising, ‘Siciliano’ made rarefied, looking Heavenwards to a starry sky.

Of the two Stravinsky ballet scores, the diamond-cut Agon (1957, with choreography by Balanchine), rigorous in terms of structure and scoring (including piano, harp and mandolin) and very exposed for the players, was played with much confidence in this closely observed account of music that can seem brusque yet gleams with tantalising new-minted detail and sonority as well as suggesting a narrative of characters and drama, marrying quirkiness and severity (the Stravinsky of The Soldier’s Tale and Symphony in Three Movements shaking hands with the every-note-matters Webern) to fascinating effect, vividly brought out in this intensively prepared performance.

As for The Rite, an expressive bassoon solo launched a rendition that could be on the (too) fast side, sometimes lacking clarity and (as broadcast) percussive impact, neither dancing nor riot-causing enough despite good intentions, the problem being that if a Rite comes along that misses the target by even a few degrees, and also carries some executional typos, so ‘everyday’ is the music now, it doesn’t really matter, although the voltage at the end of Part One was considerable, contrasted with the opening of Part Two, during which pianissimo or even quieter really meant something, yet the concluding ‘Sacrificial Dance’ was overly safe, short on delirium.

To answer the “or” posed in the above illustration: both.