Andrew Manze on joining the SCO: 'This is such an exciting time for the orchestra'

In his new role as principal guest conductor of the SCO, Andrew Manze is looking forward to immersing himself in orchestra’s atmosphere of collaborative creativity, he tells Ken Walton
Andrew Manze PIC:  Chris ChristodoulouAndrew Manze PIC:  Chris Christodoulou
Andrew Manze PIC: Chris Christodoulou

As well as launching their 2024-25 season this week, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have also announced that virtuoso violinist-turned-inspirational conductor Andrew Manze is to join the orchestra as principal guest conductor later in the year year. And as it happens, Manze is in Scotland right now, directing two programmes that say something about the unique qualities he’ll bring to the role.

The conductor is no stranger to Scotland, having undertaken the same role with the BBC SSO, from 2010-14. Nor is he unfamiliar with the ways of the SCO. “We’ve worked together many times,” he recalls with genuine fondness. “I remember some years ago doing a Beethoven symphony rehearsal and sensing immediately the influence of Charles Mackerras and the incredible momentum of high quality work. It’s a chamber orchestra full of absolutely elite players, all phenomenal – a well-oiled machine. I remember thinking, ‘do they really need me?’.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Manze rarely settles for the interpretational status quo, and will no doubt make an invigorating addition to the current artistic team. Who else would be so ambitious as to build next week’s education-based programme – where school instrumentalists from the SCO Academy initiative join forces with professional players – entirely around Vaughan Williams?

“The idea came because of Vaughan Williams’ Concerto Grosso,” Manze explains. “It’s a really unusual piece, scored for multiple player levels, from beginners to highly proficient; a serious piece of music, slightly dark in bits, but incredibly accessible to play, listen to and enjoy.” As for the remainder of the programme, leader Stephanie Gonley solos in the ever-popular The Lark Ascending, with the sophisticated originality of the Fifth Symphony as an affirmative finale.

It’s also reflective of a new evangelising push by the SCO that finds further focus next season in its first-ever three-concert New Dimensions series, exploring new sound worlds from popular minimalism to music hot-off-the-shelf, and more relaxed presentation channels such as pre and post-concert DJ segments that expand the concert experience into the foyer areas. Manze is among the collaborators involved in the series.

“Music education is on the way down, so we have to find other ways to reach young people,” he argues. “New Dimensions is a great way to address the question ‘how do we get this music that we love as players, that we think is an important part of our lives, and share it to be part of others’ lives?’ The SCO Academy is one answer; New Dimensions is another.”

Manze opens the latter programme conducting SCO associate composer Jay Capperauld’s Death In A Nutshell and James MacMillan’s Symphony No 2 (premiered 25 years ago by the SCO). Chief conductor Maxim Emelyanychev follows up directing music by Widmann and John Adams, while associate artist Pekka Kuusisto concludes the series with works by Britten, Adès, Beamish and New Yorker Timo Andres (his flamboyant piano concerto, The Blind Banister).

Pekka Kuusisto will be joining the SCO again as part of their 2024/25 season PIC: Felix BroedePekka Kuusisto will be joining the SCO again as part of their 2024/25 season PIC: Felix Broede
Pekka Kuusisto will be joining the SCO again as part of their 2024/25 season PIC: Felix Broede

Being part of the frontline team that shapes the seasonal repertoire is a prospect Manze relishes. “I’m very aware that the guest conductor’s job is to complement Maxim’s. I hope I’ll be useful in exploring areas of repertoire he doesn’t have time for.”

Emelyanychev himself opens the season in October with a celebration of Dvořák (the Cello Concerto with Steven Isserlis) and a Mozart Gala (including the glorious Mass in C). Over seven programmes he’ll also pursue more of his popular Baroque Inspirations, a Brahms Violin Concerto as season finale with soloist Nicola Benedetti, and capture such contemporary madcap sounds as Jorg Widmann’s quirky Ad Absurdum and a brand new piece – Bruckner’s Skull – by Capperauld.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Manze’s three-concert presence, including his New Dimensions programme, is just as diverse: one that throws together Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No 2, Mozart’s Flute Concerto and the little-known Baroque gem by Heinrich Schmeltzer, his Serenata (arranged by Manze himself); and a vocally-inspired programme coupling Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs (soloist Roderick Williams) and Fauré’s Requiem, but also including Ruth Gipp’s orchestral idyll Cringlemire Garden. “She was a pupil of Vaughan Williams, and I’ve been completely drawn into the magic of her style,” says Manze, who recently charmed Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra audiences, where he is also principal guest conductor, with Gipps’ pastoral idiom.

Away from the Emelyanychev-Manze curatorial axis, Pekka Kuusisto returns for another mini-residency next season, complementing his own New Dimensions programme with one mainstream concert as soloist/director in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and a Sunday Queen’s Hall chamber collaboration with key SCO players in music by Schubert, Clara Schumann and Stravinsky.

Violinist Anthony Marwood directs and performs Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s long-neglected Violin Concerto; Joana Carneiro conducts the perennial New Year Gala; violinist and early music specialist Rachel Podger masterminds an all-Bach programme; Joseph Swensen conducts Sibelius (with violinist Geneva Lewis in the Violin Concerto); SCO principal double bass Nikita Naumov features as soloist in the UK premiere of Péter Eötvös’ Aurora; oboist/director François Leleux makes a popular return in music by Mozart and Richard Strauss; and South Korean virtuoso Yeol Eum Son stars in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3.

With the SCO Chorus’s fortunes running high under director Gregory Batsleer, they’re performing Bach’s joyous Christmas Oratorio in November under Czech harpsichordist Václav Luks, and two must-see programmes in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirk: Christmas music by Vaughan Williams, Howells and Judith Weir; and an Easter performance of MacMillan’s haunting masterpiece Seven Last Words.

As the SCO moves on from its 50th Anniversary, a sense of heightened positivity and collaborative creativity prevails. Manze is raring to go. “This is such an exciting time for the orchestra,” he believes. “Things are going so well with Maxim, and there’s even a bit of a generation shift going on, where founding players have been retiring, which is always sad, yet it’s exciting to see new faces come in. Then there’s the prospect of the new concert hall in Edinburgh. I really can’t wait to get stuck in.”

Andrew Manze and the SCO perform Ravel’s Piano Concerto with Steven Osborne at Perth Concert Hall on 24 April, at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 25 April, and the City Halls, Glasgow, 26 April. Manze also appears with the SCO and the SCO Academy in Edinburgh and Glasgow on 2 & 3 May.

Full details of the SCO’s 2024-25 Season are now available at

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Scotsman is the official media partner of the SCO’s 2024-25 Season. For a 20% discount on tickets, use the code TSMSCO20 when booking – available from 24 June via venue box offices

SCO 2024-25 Season Highlights

*The world premiere of SCO Associate Composer Jay Capperauld’s Bruckner’s Skull, which delves into Bruckner’s macabre fascination with fellow composers Schubert and Mozart (19-21 February)

*Andrew Manze conducts Fauré’s Requiem with baritone Roderick Williams and the SCO Chorus (27-28 February)

*Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and pianist/conductor Simon Crawford-Phillips present a New Dimensions concert featuring pre-and-post concert foyer music by DJ Dolphin Boy (13-14 March)

*Jay Capperauld’s The Great Grumpy Gaboon – a musical adventure for 4-8 year-olds, written in collaboration with children’s author and illustrator Corrina Campbell and inspired by the SCO’s very own musicians (7-9 February)

*Nicola Benedetti joins SCO principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev for the final concert of the Season, performing Brahms’ Violin Concerto (14-16 May).