Music review: SCO & Maxim Emelyanychev, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Maxim Emelyanychev led orchestra, chorus and solo singers in a joyful dash through Haydn’s exuberant oratorio The Creation, writes David Kettle

SCO & Maxim Emelyanychev, Usher Hall, Edinburgh *****

Few who’ve ever encountered his direction can doubt the energy, flamboyance and sheer boyish enthusiasm of the SCO’s principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev. To experience him at the helm of Haydn’s exuberant oratorio The Creation, however, took those qualities to another level entirely. He propelled the orchestra, chorus and solo singers in a joyful dash through Haydn’s colourful account of the six days of creation, barely pausing between sections (he even segued into the music straight from tuning up in the break between parts one and two), leaping between fortepiano stool and his galvanising conducting, as though he couldn’t wait to share the composer’s vivid musical depictions.

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Indeed, Emelyanychev had a lot of fun with Haydn’s surging storms, twittering birds and wriggling worms – not to mention exquisite sun and moonrises – but there was a sense of restraint, too, and of careful integration into the broader journey of the work as a whole. And what a journey it was, from the icy austerity of the opening “Representation of Chaos” (dissonances and musical non-sequiturs played up compellingly) through the awe and splendour of creation itself to the beautifully delivered pastoral contentment of the Garden of Eden.

Maxim Emelyanychev and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra PIC: Chris Christodoulou
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Soloists Lydia Teuscher and Hanno Müller-Brachmann came on arm in arm for the work’s final sections, leaving no doubt as to their roles as the first humans, and were uncannily well matched in their clarity, precision and joyful freedom in tone and vocal decoration. Their tenor colleague Andrew Staples was equally lithe and dramatic in his vivid contributions. And the SCO Chorus singers have seldom sung better: their blend was rich and resonant, their rhythms crisp and bracing, their ensemble impeccable, and they paced themselves carefully across Haydn’s ever more exuberant songs of celebration. Quite simply an evening of musical joy, and of awe-struck wonder at the natural world.