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Time to start organising the season

THE final piece of the jigsaw from Scotland's orchestras for the 2014/15 season fell into place last night with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra revealing its plans in Edinburgh - and even music lovers with remarkable resources of ticket money and time will have to make difficult decisions.

HOBBY: Peter Oundjian is pictured in the RSNO brochure.
HOBBY: Peter Oundjian is pictured in the RSNO brochure.

The SCO, as well as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, also has a strong story to tell about audience growth in their audiences.

Roy McEwan at the SCO admits that his organisation still has "work to do in Glasgow" with spare capacity at the City Halls even if the attendances this 40th anniversary season have exceeded target. Over Scotland, the orchestra's audience was up by 11%. The BBC SSO reports a healthy increase in subscribers in Glasgow and Aberdeen and director Gavin Reid is as excited by evidence that old and young supporters are happy to follow as musicians explore more obscure repertoire.

At the RSNO, chief executive Michael Elliot is relaxed about a small dip in audiences, from a high number, for the core season concerts at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. He can set against that steady progress in Edinburgh at the Usher Hall and remarkable results for the "pops" concerts during the season, most recently featuring the music of soundtrack composer John Williams. The capacity house for that Glasgow concert was 65% composed of people who had never before attended an RSNO concert. Almost a fifth of ticket-buyers are under 26.

The opening of the RSNO season takes its cue from 2014 being Scotland's second Year of Homecoming, reflec-ted in brochure images of orchestra members and their pastimes, with music director Peter Oundjian depicted with a classic Alfa Romeo car on the cover.

After orchestra principals Katherine Bryan and Aleksei Kiseliov play the Rouse Flute Concerto (a Scottish premiere) and Elgar Cello Concerto, Nicola Benedetti plays the First Violin Concerto by Shostakovich and Scots pianist Steven Osborne the Ravel Piano Concerto. An Elgar strand runs through the season, with a concert in the week of Remembrance Day that includes a new piece by Sally Beamish, Equal Voices, and a work, Behind the Lines, composed by Cecil Coles, from Kirkcudbright, who died in the First World War.

Scots will have another opportunity to hear the Ravel Piano Concerto in February when Mitsuko Uchida plays the work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as part of remarkable contribution by world class piano players to the SCO season that sees the chamber orchestra continue to make more use of Edinburgh's Usher Hall.

The Uchida concerts are preceded in November by concerts of both of the piano concertos of Brahms in a single evening by Elisabeth Leonskaja.

Uchida, who directed the SCO in Mozart from the piano in the 1980s, returns after working with principal conductor Robin Ticciati and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. The Piano Classics series from the SCO also includes Beethoven from Ticciati and Francesco Piemontesi and in concerts that feature chamber music partners Alexander Janiczek and Llyr Williams.

It concludes in April with the live debut of a new Linn Records studio partnership between the SCO and Ingrid Fliter under conductor Jun Markl, playing Chopin.

The other major plank of the chamber orchestra's use of Edinburgh's big hall is a choral series featuring the SCO Chorus, directed by Geoffrey Batsleer. The season concludes with Haydn's Creation directed by Christopher Hogwood, the culmination of Haydn strand through the programme that will embrace new recordings of the symphonies, and includes Mozart's Requiem under the baton of Phillippe Herreweghe. It begins in November with Handel's Messiah with Richard Egarr directing from the harpsichord, a work that the RSNO has invited conductor Laurence Cummings to return to on January 2 after his reading was praised in The Herald.

The SCO season begins with a celebration of Mahler and the partnership of Ticciati and the associate artist Karen Cargill with the mezzo-soprano featured in Symphony No 4 and Kindertotenlieder, with Das Lied von der Erde following in January.

Pianist Steven Osborne also features in the BBC SSO season, completing his cycle of Beethoven concer-tos with conductor Andrew Manze, alongside the conducting team of Donald Runnicles, Ilan Volkov and Matthias Pintscher.

The major piano strand of the season is in the hands of Peter Donohoe, who will play all three of James MacMillan's concertos. Runnicles' 60th birthday is celebrated with concerts of Beethoven 9 and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante.

The orchestra's chief conductor is also in charge of a performance of Berg's Wozzeck and leads an exploration of the symph-onies of Shostakovich, directing Nos 15 and 10, which opens the season, with Martyn Brabbins on the podium for No 5 in November. The composer's music for the film of King Lear, under the baton of Ilan Volkov, helps celebrate the link between music and Shakespeare.

rsno.org.uk; sco.org.uk; bbc.co.uk/bbcsso

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