Music review: SCO/Emelyanychev, City Halls, Glasgow

Maxim Emelyanychev
Maxim Emelyanychev
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In his first SCO season concert since assuming the SCO principal conductorship, Maxim Emelyanychev unveiled intriguing clues of what we can expect from the 31-year-old Russian as he develops his relationship with his new orchestra.

SCO/Emelyanychev, City Halls, Glasgow ****

The programme itself was an indicator: works that live by the power of their intimacy and interplay, subtleties of colour and natural energy. 
In each of these – Five Pieces for Orchestra by the contemporary French composer Philippe Hersant, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 2 and Mozart’s exuberant “Jupiter” symphony – Emelyanychev’s zestful physicality, the moulding power of his shapely hand gestures, his charismatic alertness to tonal priorities, all contributed to the fresh, distinctive appeal of the performances.

Hersant’s music was new to me. It has a gestural charm, succinct thoughts that appear, do their business and disappear. Whether in the motorised charm of the first, the dizzy Bartokian allusions of the second and final pieces, or the sumptuous Britten-like undercurrents of the elegiac fourth, there is an accomplished beauty which these performances revealed with crystallised refinement.

The Prokofiev was a triumph of restraint. The unassuming mellowness of the opening solo melody (soloist Carolin Widmann) was magically reflected in the orchestra’s sotto voce response, a teasing, temperate quality sustained throughout.

Widman’s playing, poetic and ruminative, suffered momentary lapses in focus, but it earned her a delightful Ravel encore with Emelyanychev accompanying on piano.

Mozart’s “Jupiter” had the joint jumping. Emelyanychev gave it a fresh lick of paint, rhetorical but never overdone, bright, breezy and revealingly original. Ken Walton