Five stars

It is tempting to draw a parallel between the relationship that created Brahms’ Violin Concerto, between the composer and virtuoso Joseph Joachim, and the one we saw on stage between soloist Aylen Pritchin and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, who are chums from their studies together at the Moscow Conservatoire.

But while Brahms and Joachim met as teenagers, they were well into middle-age when the work was written, while the contemporary partnership is yet of young men. Not that you might have guessed from the maturity of this performance. The SCO has a distinguished history of playing Brahms with celebrated recordings of the symphonies by Charles Mackerras and Robin Ticciati in its catalogue, but this programme, which followed the concerto with the first of those symphonies, showed that Emelyanychev is in no way daunted by that legacy.

For those familiar with, for example, Nicola Benedetti’s performances of the Violin Concerto with the RSNO, this was an entirely different sound world, the soloist and ensemble using gut strings, and the warmth of their rich tone teamed with a poise and precision in their phrasing. The Tigger-ish conductor may have been bouncing on the balls of his feet as usual, but he often seemed to be signalling restraint to his players, and his tempi throughout were very measured.

READ MORE: Review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Ryan Wigglesworth at City Halls, Glasgow

As for Pritchin, his first movement cadenza was full of emotional and dynamic range, and he settled into a relaxed conversation with the winds in the Adagio before the expressive gypsy dance of the finale, in which the instruction “ma non troppo vivace” was meticulously obeyed. The crisp playing of the SCO strings and the spaciousness of the sound was nothing short of revelatory.

For his encore, the soloist then produced a lyrical Largo from a Bach sonata that was also all about feeling rather than mere technique.

The conductor’s way with the symphony was from the same mould. Out of the blocks as soon as he arrived in front of the orchestra, there was nonetheless an unhurried and stately quality to the slow movement, and a very incremental build-up to the Scherzo. Throughout, the softer sound of the gut strings, and muted quality to the pizzicato passages, made this a masterclass in historically-informed performance that was simultaneously as far from po-faced as is possible.