wed 24/07/2024

Ablogin, SCO, Emelyanychev, City Halls, Glasgow review - a happy 50th birthday | reviews, news & interviews

Ablogin, SCO, Emelyanychev, City Halls, Glasgow review - a happy 50th birthday

Ablogin, SCO, Emelyanychev, City Halls, Glasgow review - a happy 50th birthday

Hundreds and thousands of birthday delights, with Mozart and contemporary surprises

Maxim Emelyanychev conducts the Scottish Chamber OrchestraScottish Chamber Orchestra

The mood was indeed celebratory at Glasgow’s City Halls on Friday evening for the second of two concerts celebrating the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s 50th birthday. It opened with a suite from Figaro Gets a Divorce, a comic opera written by composer Eleanor Langer to a text from director and librettist David Pountney which was premiered by Welsh National Opera in 2016.

As the title suggests, it was written as a sequel to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, and is based partly on the play La Mère coupable by Pierre Beaumarchais, the third and least known of his Figaro trilogy. The orchestra opened the suite with a backdrop of ethereally shimmering strings and tender woodwind emulating the chirping of cicadas on s sultry Seville evening. Tinges of tango came to the fore as the music heated up, with principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev leading the orchestra in some vivid musical storytelling.

It’s fitting that after this piece, the work that followed was by Mozart. The German-based pianist Dmitry Ablogin was one of the soloists in Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat for two pianos, the other being Emelyanychev himself, who directed the orchestra from the keyboard. It is always a treat to hear Maxim at the keyboard as he’s perhaps as accomplished a pianist as he is a conductor. The two pianists showed symbiotic musicianship, the threads of their melodies elegantly woven together. Both playing period instruments, intonation issues were perhaps unavoidable; a couple of sharp Steinways wouldn't have produced as tender a timbre, but they would have stayed in tune. I guess it comes down to a style choice, and just because I might have opted for something different, it doesn’t render either one better or worse than the other. 

The concert culminated with Haydn’s "Surprise’" symphony, No. 94 in G major. Going from the sophisticated poise of the first movement’s Adagio cantabile openings to its more rambunctious Vivace assai, the orchestra played with a spritely poise – and, delightfully, looked like they were having lots of fun while doing so! The second movement’s more quiet opening chords had a tender vulnerability to them, leading to the ‘Surprise’ – a startlingly loud, punchy chord – being all the more, well, surprising. Throughout the symphony Emelyanychev played with the pulse in a witty and stylish manner, before bringing it to a triumphant close. 

Another surprise was a newly written encore by SCO Associate Composer Jay Capperauld. "Jubilee", his variations on "Happy Birthday", were as cheesy as a roquefort cave but somehow a perfectly fitting end to what was a fun and festive occasion.

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