Scottish Chamber Orchestra

City Halls, Glasgow

four stars

ALTHOUGH his account of the New World Symphony this coming weekend is eagerly anticipated, departing Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati’s final season exploration of the music of Dvorak has rather come apart at the seams as he recovers from his health problems. But there have been compensations in the introductions the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has been forced to make, and that was certainly the case here.

Young Russian conductor Maxim Emelyanychev is possibly best known for his recent collaboration with American mezzo Joyce DiDonato and Il Pomo d’Oro on their acclaimed In War & Peace album, and here he produced some of the most robust playing we have heard from the SCO musicians this season.

In the opening movement of Schubert’s final Ninth Symphony, “The Great”, this facility was perhaps a little overcooked, with a loss of some of the dynamic contrast in the score, but there was real sensitivity in the Andante that followed and vivacity in the dance rhythms of the finale, which is full of exactly that requirement for variations in power and volume. And this was assuredly as meaty a sound as we have heard from any other guest conductor.

The concert’s replacement Czech soloist Josef Spacek quite plainly has the Dvorak Violin Concerto in his blood, and produced a huge sound with exquisite tone and lovely fluid playing. Alongside that, and the conductor’s drawing of real power from the orchestra, moments like the opening of the concerto’s final movement were wonderfully light, with Alec Frank-Gemmill’s horn section in particularly noteworthy form throughout.

With Spacek adding a Prokofiev encore to make Vengerov pale, this was a change of conductor and soloist that short-changed no-one, and, it was good to see, attracted a good Friday night audience regardless.