Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Maxim Emelyanychev

Schubert Symphony No.9 “The Great”


WHEN Felix Mendelssohn produced the score for Schubert’s Ninth Symphony on a visit to London at the start of the 1840s, the orchestral players he was conducting took one look at the music and told him to forget it. If contemporary musicians are more equal to the challenge of the skipping rhythms and changes of pace in “The Great C Major”, it remains a bold choice for a conductor’s audition piece and subsequent debut recording with his new orchestra.

It is already very clear, however, that Maxim Emelyanychev finds little in his varied musical life daunting, and his securing of “Best Newcomer” at this year’s International Opera Awards alongside his growing reputation as a chamber musician as well as a conductor served to confirm that he was a very smart signing to succeed Robin Ticciati as principal conductor at the SCO.

The last recording by the old partnership, with recently-departed first horn Alec Frank-Gemmill playing the Strauss Horn Concerto No.1, has only just appeared as a download-only release on Linn, and now here is the first work from the new team, recorded in Dundee’s Caird Hall and as vibrantly dynamic and rhythmically sure-footed as you’d wish. There is some fine horn-playing here too, and stellar work by the oboes, principal Robin Williams and Rosie Staniforth, who has also just made a career move south. In the arrivals lounge, the timpanist on the Schubert is Louise Goodwin, appointed permanently to the orchestra at the start of October.

I suspect we will hear earlier music from Emelyanychev and the SCO on Linn, but this “Classical” masterpiece already benefits from the sprightly lightness-of-touch of a musician at home in the Baroque, trombones and all.

Keith Bruce