Music review: SCO, Maxim Emelyanychev, Stephanie Gonley & André Cebrián

An eclectic programme of Adams, Mozart and Bach served as a reminder of how brilliantly versatile the SCO is, writes David Kettle

Maxim Emelyanychev and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra PIC: Chris Christodoulou
Maxim Emelyanychev and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra PIC: Chris Christodoulou

SCO, Maxim Emelyanychev, Stephanie Gonley and André Cebrián, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****

Adams, Mozart and Bach made for quite an eclectic, not to say diffuse, programme from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev. But though it felt a bit like three mini concerts strung together, the evening also made a virtue of splitting the SCO into some of its constituent parts and shining a bright light on their remarkable abilities.

First up, the SCO string players, who Emelyanychev drove hard in a bracing, grab-you-by-the-scruff-off-the-neck account of Adams’s minimalist classic Shaker Loops. He clearly knows the score inside out, cueing individual players in their microscopic additions to Adams’s rippling, repeating textures. But Emelyanychev had a convincing sense, too, of the piece’s grander architecture, its passages of drama and repose, and the players delivered a vibrant, alert but movingly supple account as a result.

The string players gave up the stage to the SCO’s winds for four (unconducted) movements from Mozart’s Gran partita Serenade, which bustled with energy and detail under unobtrusive direction from principal clarinet Maximiliano Martín. This was truly chamber music writ large: the 13 musicians glanced and cued each other back and forth, delivering velvety smoothness in the work’s sonorous opening, and boisterous energy in its rustic finale.

SCO leader Stephanie Gonley had led the Adams that opened the evening, and returned as one of the soloists in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 that closed it, in a slimmed-down septet of players that allowed remarkable rhythmic and expressive suppleness, driven by Emelyanychev’s exuberant harpsichord playing. Gonley and SCO principal flautist André Cebrián were beautifully matched in their focus and shaping of their intertwining melodic lines, and while it was a brisk, sometimes slightly breathless account, every detail was still clearly etched. It might have felt like three concerts in one, but it also served as a reminder of how brilliantly versatile the SCO is.

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