City Halls, Glasgow
Keith Bruce
five stars
IS it OK to admit now that I have never really understood the weight given to Wagner’s oft-quoted pronouncement about Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony being “the apotheosis of the dance”? Although the BBC SSO has yet to enter the fray with its contribution to Radio 3’s poorly-named “Unleashed” project for the composer’s 250th anniversary, elsewhere we are well into the celebrations, and younger conductors are proving there are fresh approaches to be found to that work that belie any characterisation as mere dance music.
Following Elim Chan’s stately No 7 with the RSNO, the musical dynamo that is Maxim Emelyanychev directed his chamber orchestra in a stormier reading that nonetheless shared some characteristics in its spaces, pauses and ritardandos. It followed a bustling account of the Sixth that was often far from “Pastoral” in a pairing that, curiously, blatantly contradicted the SCO’s own programme notes. In those, Cambridge University’s Martin Ennis conventionally pairs 5 and 6, as they were first performed, and 7 with 8, which the orchestra will not play until May. Amongst other revelations, Emelyanychev showed the close kinship between the dramatic storm in the Sixth and both the second and fourth movements of the Seventh.
Guest-led by Dutch violinist Marieke Blankestijn, co-leader, and a founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, this was the SCO at the very top of its game, and demonstrating once again the terrific chemistry that already exists between these players and their new Principal Conductor. It was not just in the pacing but also in the dynamics that this team can turn on a dime. The more frantic passages were balanced by some lovely languid phrasing in the wind section, both in the evocation of village life in the Pastoral and in the opening movement of the Seventh.
Having this young Russian, still at the start of a developing career, signed up for the next five years with the SCO is a very enticing prospect.