SCO/Emelyanychev review – dynamic new conductor showcases his versatility

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
The chamber orchestra’s new principal conductor gave a vibrant and lithe account of one of Mozart’s grandest symphonies

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra presents its newly anointed principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev in both the concert hall and the recording studio this week. The young, multi-talented Russian had a dream introduction to the orchestra last year as an 11th-hour stand in for an indisposed Robin Ticciati, the orchestra’s then principal conductor. That performance resulted not only in a recording of the repertoire of that first concert Schubert’s “Great” C major Symphony – released this week – but also in his appointment to the very role Ticciati was vacating.

On the strength of the recording, already receiving great reviews, and this opening night performance, it’s not difficult to see why the SCO jumped at the opportunity to get Emelyanychev on board. He is dynamic, energetic and exciting to watch, exhilarating for musicians and audience alike. SCO principal conductors in recent memory have often seemed determined to push the limits of the definition of chamber orchestra, with ever-expanding repertoire and size of forces. Not so Emelyanychev. For all that he chose one of Mozart’s grandest symphonies, the mighty C major “Jupiter”, this was far from symphony-orchestra Mozart. Instead Emelyanychev gave a lithe, vibrant account of the work, tightly paced but never hurried. It was a demonstration that he is equally at home with a period-instrument ensemble or in the opera house.

There were hints at other interests in programming of the first half of the concert, with the UK premiere of Five Pieces for Orchestra by French composer Philippe Hersant, colourful vignettes that could never be anything but French. There was also Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto with German soloist Carolin Widmann, another new face for the orchestra and a fluid, powerful player. Showcasing his versatility further, Emelyanychev even turned to the piano for Widmann’s encore, accompanying her in Faure’s delicate, whimsical Berceuse.


Rowena Smith

The GuardianTramp

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