Perth Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

four stars

COME Friday evening, as usual, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra will be in Glasgow’s City Halls and Principal Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev’s focus – following last week’s revelatory Brahms concerts – is on the music of Felix Mendelssohn.

That will be well worth hearing, but no matter where you live in Scotland, making the trip to Perth to listen to music is always worth the journey.

From the opening bar of Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony, the young conductor’s dynamic way with the music of the even-younger composer surely sounded more vibrant in this venue than it will in either Glasgow or Edinburgh this week.

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The names attached to symphonies are can be problematic, and are often the whim of publishers, but the sunny, exuberant “Italian” suits its handle better than its number, because Mendelssohn’s Fourth actually pre-dates his Second and Third.

Its inspiration was undoubtedly the time the young man spent on his Grand Tour, while his visit to Scotland contributed comparatively less to his “Scottish” symphony – not that we let that stand in the way of our claim on it.

The hybrid technology of the conductor’s approach to the work teamed a brisk contemporary attention to detail with natural horns and brass. Those horns sounded superb at the start of the third movement, as the cello section had at the end of the Andante, and the SCO’s wind soloists sparkled throughout. Strange, and inexplicable, then was the work’s somewhat passionless conclusion.

HeraldScotland: Maxim EmelyanychevMaxim Emelyanychev (Image: FREE)

Perhaps Emeleyanychev’s mind was already on the music after the interval. His selection of eight movements from Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream made a superb ensemble suite, with sopranos Hilary Cronin and Jessica Cale joining 22 sopranos and contraltos from the SCO Chorus at either side of the stage.

The set-up was crucial to the way the music was performed. Although it includes some of the composer’s best-known music – the overture he wrote as a teenager and that Wedding March – those tunes were part of a lovely narrative arc here, the ingredients all beautifully balanced.

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Few brides, it might be noted, would have appreciated the martial style with which Emelyanychev directed that traipse down the aisle, but it worked superbly in this context, and the dynamic control he then exercised over players and singers in the Finale was quite masterly.