NO-ONE who has regularly attended classical orchestral concerts in Scotland over recent years can have missed the obvious change in the demographic of the audience. The strategies adopted by our two government-funded national ensembles and the BBC’s orchestra in Scotland may have differences, but their goal and successful effect have been similar: professional musicians working here can no longer expect to look out on a uniform sea of grey (and balding) heads in the venues they play every week of their concert seasons.

As they published their 2020/2021 programmes last week, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra each had a lot to say to and about younger people. The incentive to attend is there in ease of access; both orchestras offer free tickets to under 18s and £6 tickets to students and those under 26. Understandably, there are some restrictions on the number of those for the sure-fire box office hits, but RSNO chief executive Alistair Mackie is unequivocal about the way the equation must work.

“Our expanded offering of free tickets for under 18s for all Season concerts and a continued determination to reach all sectors of our society through our Music for Life scheme will ensure that access is not exclusive,” he said. That offer stands “even when it means we take a financial hit,” he added.

Ticketing is just one side of the drive to extend the orchestras’ fan base however. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s chief executive Gavin Reid has an ace to play in the young principal conductor he has under contract to 2025. With impromptu performances in bars and foyers and regular chamber music outings with members or the orchestra as well as his main platform appearances as a player as well as a conductor, Maxim Emelyanychev embodies a youthful spirit.

“Maxim’s collaboration with the SCO is very multi-layered,” he said. “And surprises are part of the package.”

For Emelyanychev it is a desire to have “the audience involved in what we do onstage.” Asked at the Queen’s Hall launch event if this meant some repertoire that is not seen as usual SCO fare, he did not miss a beat. “It will be,” he replied with a smile.

There is, for example, a focus on the music of American John Adams throughout the coming season, with Emelyanychev conducting The Chairman Dances in the season’s opening concert, his Violin Concerto with soloist Josef Spacek in November, and Shaker Loops next March. The week before that last concert, the SCO welcomes the conductor of Scottish Opera’s recent production of Adams’s Nixon in China, Joana Carniero, to make her debut with the orchestra with a concerto that includes Jess Gillam playing his Saxophone Concerto.

Just as certain to attract the broadest age-range of the public is the SCO’s flagship collaboration with singer/songwriter Karine Polwart for a world premiere commission that is co-promoted with Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival in January.

Reuniting Polwart with composer and sound designer Pippa Murphy, who collaborated on her 2016 Edinburgh International Festival show, Wind Resistance, If You See Me, Weep will be under the musical direction of this year’s featured artist, violinist Pekka Kuusisto. The four movement piece by Polwart and Murphy will be threaded through a programme that also includes the music of Beethoven and Peteris Vasks, with the new work taking its title from an inscription on the ancient Hunger Stones, drought markers on the River Elbe near the German/Czech border. If not so much a piece of theatre, in its environmental concerns and with Polwart herself in the dual role of singer and narrator, the work sounds to be in some respects a follow-up to Wind Resistance, while Kuusisto brings his own connections with the collaborative edges of contemporary classical music in his associations with singer songwriter Sam Amidon and composer Nico Muhly.

The RSNO also has a focus on issues that are of pressing concern to younger people, including mental health and climate change, in its programme, with expanded pre-concert Exchange talks offering discussion of the issues. Violinist Midori, the season’s Artist in Residence will discuss the climate emergency with a panel of young people before a programme that includes the UK premiere of Detlev Glanert’s’ Violin Concerto No 2 and music inspired by St Kilda by Scotland’s Craig Armstrong amid landscape-inspired work by Mendelssohn and Sibelius.

The Armstrong compositions are part of a thread of “Scotch Snaps” running through the RSNO season, with work by Christopher Duncan, Michael Murphy and world premiere commissions from Jay Capperauld and David Fennessy. Capperauld’s flute concerto for the RSNO’s Katherine Bryan, included in Music Director Thomas Sondergard’s season opener in September, is entitled Our Gilded Veins and, said the orchestra’s Director of Concerts and Engagement Bill Chandler, “explores the fragility of human experience.” Fennessy’s Riot Act will be conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan the following month and preceded by an Exchange event in which the composer and others will discuss political activism.

Both orchestras have significant involvement by Scotland’s champion of music education for young people, Nicola Benedetti. The violinist and Emelyanychev work together for the first time in the SCO’s season opener, when she plays the Bruch Violin Concerto No 1. That perennial favourite is a work she played on the West Coast of the USA with the RSNO a year ago, and after its Scottish performances she and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra take it to the nearer side of North America for nine concerts in what will be the orchestra’s first tour of the US in a decade.

In April 2021 Benedetti plays back to back concerts with both Sondergard and Chan and the RSNO. The first of those features the players of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland performing side-by-side with the RSNO professionals in what is a developing relationship between the two, and has the soloist performing the work she played for her victory in the BBC Young Musician at the age of 16, Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No 1. A week later Benedetti is on much fresher territory with the Scottish premiere of a new violin concerto by young Liverpudlian clarinettist and composer, and another BBC Young Musician alumnus, Mark Simpson.

The RSNO’s season also provides a platform for showcase performances by young players from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Douglas Academy and St Mary’s in Edinburgh, as does the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with the SCO also establishing a new Youth Academy partnership with St Mary’s in the coming year.

The list of other guest soloists appearing over the new season is a star-studded one. Highlights of the SCO’s include cellist Alban Gerhardt performing the Scottish premiere of Julian Anderson’s concerto in memory of composer and conductor Oliver Knussen and Gabriela Montero playing Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Glasgow-born Knussen is also remembered in an SCO concert conducted by Sir George Benjamin, featuring the music of both. Next April conductor John Storgards and percussionist Colin Currie will at last perform the Rautavaara concerto, Incantations,

postponed two years ago when Scotland’s infrastructure succumbed to the meteorological “Beast from the East”.

The RSNO has conductor John Wilson on the podium for the first time when pianist Louis Schwizgebel plays Gershwin’s Concerto in F, and Benjamin Grosvenor renews his partnership with Elim Chan for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1. That concert is also part of a whole Polska Scotland strand of programming from the RSNO that includes a visit by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and pianist Szymon Nehring, marking the 80th anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz, when a Polish warship provided vital defence of the shipbuilding yards.

The feast of piano players in the RSNO season also includes the return of Boris Giltburg, playing Rachmaninov 4, Paul Lewis playing Grieg, and Makoto Ozone, who last appeared in Scotland with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, playing Mozart.

Tickets for the new season’s concerts are available to subscribers now, with single concert tickets available from May 1 (SCO) and May 5 (RSNO. &