FRIDAY, February 21, turned out to be an auspicious day for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s principal guest conductor conductor Elim Chan. As she lifted her baton to begin the orchestra’s survey of the works of Beethoven, in his 250th anniversary year, with the Seventh Symphony, the day also saw the release of her first recording, with any orchestra.

That Decca label release is also an important milestone for the man whose name is in larger print on its cover. The album is the latest by pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, his first composed entirely of orchestral concertos, coupling the Concerto No.2 by Frederic Chopin, in fact the first the composer wrote, with Concerto No. 1, which swiftly followed. Grosvenor performed No.2 in Scotland with Chan and the RSNO in November 2018 and No.1 will feature in the orchestra’s forthcoming season.

Grosvenor is still just 27 years of age, and a few years younger than the Hong Kong-born conductor, but has been signed to Decca for a decade, and began his professional career at the age of 11. The Chopin concertos were among the first works that he played with an orchestra in his early teenage years, so he has taken his time to commit his interpretations to posterity.

In what was one of the most remarkable showcases for young talent in the history of the competition, 11-year-old Grosvenor, winner of the keyboard category of the 2004 BBC Young Musician, was runner up in the final at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, where the orchestra was the BBC SSO under its new conductor Ilan Volkov, himself just the age the pianist is now. Grosvenor took the audience prize, and the winner that year was, of course, a 16-year-old violinist called Nicola Benedetti.

The pianist concedes that for him the Chopin is “well-seasoned repertoire” but the choice of recording partner was never going to be straightforward.

“They are not easy works for conductors, but the concert went extremely well and we got on so well both musically and personally,” he says. The concertos are hardly a stroll in the park for piano players either, as Grosvenor is persuaded to admit.

“What is very different about Chopin is that there are a lot of notes in very challenging patterns. The music needs to be played very lightly or it can sound like one technical study in top of another. It needs as much colour as you can find on the keyboard.”

If that is the soloist’s task, the conductor also faces challenges, he adds.

“Some of the writing is not very flattering for the orchestra, which is sometimes just there as a halo behind the soloist. But there is nothing that is superfluous.”

Chan admits that she was very aware of the difficulties the works presented for her first foray on to the market.

“The Chopin concertos are ones that scare the conductor and Ben has played them without a conductor, so I was preparing like crazy. But it was much easier that I thought.”

“After the concert we met in London and went through both scores looking at all the possibilities,” she says. “Ben had a vision for the recordings but he was open to different ways of doing things.”

A pianist herself, Chan played Chopin before her conducting career but says she “never got as far as the concertos.”

“Ben has such a jump on the material because it has stayed with him since he was so young, and he can now come back to it as a mature musician.”

While the focus of the works is always on the piano, Chan says that her job was to find all the details of the orchestration that support the soloist. While the compact proportions of the Second Concerto work well, the First is not as lean and requires more effort to execute satisfactorily.

“Some recordings have tried to ‘correct’ or ‘enhance’ the orchestration, but Chopin knew what he was doing. When you balance a performance properly, it is right on the money.”

Both musicians explicitly, and independently, mention the importance of the environment they had to work in at the RSNO.

“The RSNO and myself have such a good relationship now. As a young conductor it can be difficult to let the musicians take care of things, but I’ve learned to trust the RSNO. And the orchestra’s home is such a beautiful space to work – everything just fell into place,” says Chan.

“It was such a privilege to record there,” adds Grosvenor. “It is so versatile, and yet we found the right settings very early on. The orchestra is very lucky to have that.”

Grosvenor’s Decca album with Chan made an immediate impression on the classical charts, arriving at No3, but it was released in a month full of new discs featuring the orchestra. Scotland’s Linn Records has just unveiled the second album made with chief conductor and music director Thomas Sondergard, showcasing the Dane’s particular skills with the symphonies of Prokofiev.

Before the month ends they will both be joined by the intriguing Maghek, recorded in Glasgow, but conceived in the rather different climes of the Canary Islands. Comprising seven “symphonic poems” composed by Gustavo Diaz-Jerez and conducted by Eduardo Portal, the project represents a decade of work by the composer and has been supported by the government of the Spanish islands. Featuring local soloists Cristo Barrios on clarinet and pianist Ricardo Descalzo, each piece is named for a specific island and reflects the history and natural landscape of its inspiration.

If that might seem a conceptual stretch for Scotland’s national orchestra, it is only one facet of an extraordinarily busy 2019 in the recording terms. The orchestra featured on at least eight albums released last year and ended it working with conductor John Mauceri and actor Alan Cumming on the recording of the former’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which had debuted in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The fruits of many 2019 sessions at the RSNO Centre and in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall will be appearing for months to come as the orchestra makes further efforts to exploit the commercial possibilities of its new home for film soundtrack and other projects.

While the RSNO is enticing the world to come to Glasgow to work, both Chan and Grosvenor have the sort of globe-trotting schedule that goes with their chosen career.

I wonder if Grosvenor ever meets up with Benedetti, who pipped him to the post for the BBC Young Musician accolade more than half a lifetime ago?

“Actually we met at an airport quite recently,” he laughs. “That happens more often than you should really expect.”

Benjamin Grosvenor’s Chopin Piano Concertos with Elim Chan and the RSNO is out now on Decca.