With the SCO, Maxim Emelyanychev confirms his world-class talent for baroque music

21/01/2020

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Bach, Lully, Rameau, Telemann: Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Maxim Emelyanychev (director/harpsichord). City Hall Glasgow, 17.1.2020. (GT)

Maxim Emelyanychev (c) Ryan Buchanan

J S Bach – Orchestral Suite No.4 in D, BWV 1069

Telemann – ‘Alster’ Overture Suite

Lully – Suite, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

Rameau – Suite from Les Indes Galantes

The arrival of the young Russian conductor Maxim Emelyanychev in Scotland may be one of the best appointments in the history of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. In repertoire from the Baroque to the Modern in the world of music, the thirty-one-year-old man from Nizhny-Novgorod has displayed outstanding gifts in interpretation and musicianship. Here in this concert of the French and German baroque, we could witness his gifts directing from the keyboard. Gut strings were adopted for this performance and seemed to be in the grand style wholly fitting for this concert. The common theme was the dance, and the diverse traditions of France and German manners was tangible. The opening Bach suite with its stirring chords from the trumpets and timpani was magnificent and reminded us of its association with the composer’s Christmas cantata ‘Unser Mund sei voll Lachens’. In the opening bourrée, there was some delightful wind playing, and in the second one, the ambience was buoyant, with marvellous bassoon playing from Alison Green and Anthea Green. In the eight-part gavotte, Bach’s complex writing emerged in charming fashion in duple dance form, here the musicians coped well with the gut strings – adapting well – and we heard a delightful quintet of leading string players with the harpsichord in the minuets. In the Réjouissance, the mood was in sparkling celebratory idiom with the trumpets and timpani ending the piece in splendid fashion.

The Telemann work pulsated with its ‘Ouverture’ on four natural horns situated on either side of the two double basses, giving off beautiful harmonies, and enthusiastically led by Maxim Emelyanychev. In the ‘Die Canonierende Pallas’, we heard precise gut strings, magnificently juxtaposed by the horns! In the ‘Der Alster Echo’, two horns played offstage allowing an echo effect in a humorous passage, and long slides on the bows giving more impact. In the ‘Der Schwanen Gesang’ (‘Swan song’), the mood was solemn, in an almost measured sarabande. ‘Der Alster Schäffer Dorff Musik’ was similarly upbeat and bright, in a jocular anecdotal segment. In the ‘Die concertierenden Frosche und Krähen’, depicting a Concert of Frogs and Crows, Maxim Emelyanychev bounded from the harpsichord in rhythm to the music to get more from his players. There came gags from the gut strings and rude blasts from horns, like animals screeching in the night. ‘Der ruhrende Pan’ was soulful, intimate, with a string quintet and harpsichord, in reflective idiom. The concluding ‘Der Schiffer und Nyphen eilfertiger Abzug’ enacted a bustling triple-time jig of the ‘quickly departing’ nymphs and shepherds with a roar of celebratory brass and a stirring return to the opening passage.

The second half was of two French baroque pieces revealing the contrast in styles; for Lully’s suite – from his ballet Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme – the ‘Ouverture’ opened on the drums, and after showing the rhythmic pulse was followed by the suite of dances either stately – with notably delightfully virtuosic playing by Benjamin Marquise Gilmour – or bright and cheerful and accompanied by percussion. The young Russian at the keyboard rose to playing the sopranino recorder in evocation of the ‘Canarie’, and the suite was brought to a terrific close in the ‘Marche pour la Ceremonie des Turcs’ with Turkish bells effecting a superb celebratory close.

In contrast, Rameau’s Suite from Les Indes Galantes opened eloquently on a fragrant elegiac mood, here Emelyanychev conducted with very graceful, beautiful hands bringing out all the charm of the music. In the ‘Rigaudons’ the marvellously well performed dance rhythms – with contrasting bells and strings – executed a hurried dance. There followed the superbly performed music of the ‘Air pour les esclaves africains’, again with a magnificent contribution from the percussion of Tom Hunter and Philip Hague. This was amplified in the ‘Tambourins’ with bells in a brisk march and superb woodwind playing. In the ‘Adoration du soleil’, the strings eloquently invoked a tenuous theme; then in the ‘Chaconne’ an upbeat melody on the trumpets and percussion introduced a celebratory tone to the Turkish finale!

An additional ‘event’ took place at the interval when Emelyanychev and several wind players played some chamber music for the gathered members of the audience in the foyer. Perhaps a sign of the times too was heralded when the orchestra came on stage together with the conductor and on time rather than the rather disorganised fashion that most orchestras adopt at the start of a concert. There was also little or no gap between the different works and any time wasted moving instruments was cut to the minimum.

This was a superb concert once again underlying the outstanding talents of the young Russian musician who continues to display how much of a major asset he now is to this orchestra, as well as, the important figure he is becoming in the Scottish musical world.

Gregor Tassie

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