Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

DIRECTING from the harpsichord, conductor Maxim Emelyanychev set the SCO on fire in this crowd-pleasing programme of Baroque dances with his sheer magnetism and boundless energy.

Maxim EmelyanychevConductor 

Maxim Emelyanychev
Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****

The French were masters of this popular style, but the German’s adopted it too. With trumpet fanfares strutting to the snap of the timpani and a strumming theorbo, Emelyanychev set Bach’s Suite No.4 in D going at such a lick that dancing it to it would have been tricky. But while this exuberance was infectious, the glossy gut string sound from the strings was often overpowering, leaving little breathing space for the other instruments, and the virtuosic bassoon solo in the second Bourée would have benefited from a less frenetic pace.

However, going completely over the top was exactly the point of Telemann’s witty take on his Hamburg surroundings in the Alster Overture (Suite). Emelyanychev and the players gleefully depicted the pecking crows and noisy frogs, even summoning an echo from the off-stage natural horns.

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There was more substance to the French offering in the second half. Lully’s suite from his comic ballet Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme bounced along nicely, with the versatile Emelyanychev producing bird-like sounds from the recorder in Canarie. A grand Turkish March concluded this engaging romp with a flourish of jangling bells.

Rameau’s suite from his opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes was also a more sophisticated offering, with contrasting airs for oboes and the thudding drums of war along with the giddy whirl of the tambourine adding to the overall exotic atmosphere.