CLASSICAL music, to me, is “like speaking to God”, the novelist Andre Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name, once said. Well, not all of us want to commune with the Almighty, but there’s no doubt that the best classical music has a touch of the numinous about it. This autumn offers plenty of opportunities to test this theory. 
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra all have busy diaries between now and Christmas, and that’s before we talk about visiting musicians. 
In what follows we’ve not even mentioned Nicola Benedetti’s performances of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the SCO in December (in Perth Concert Hall on December 13 and the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on December 14, if you must know). 
And we’ve also given Handel’s Messiah a swerve in this list. But here are 10 concerts out of the many between now and December we think will be worth catching.

Mozart & Haydn, Scottish Chamber Orchestra 
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Thursday; City Halls, Glasgow, Friday; Aberdeen Music Hall, Aberdeen, October 28

If you’re free of an afternoon in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen at the end of the coming week, this Scottish Chamber Orchestra matinee performance is a great way to kick off an autumn of classical music. Directed by French-German cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, the programme includes Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C and Mozart’s Symphony No 38 (it is sometimes known as “Prague”, which is where the symphony received its premiere back in January 1887). The programme also includes Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta and Transylvanian Dances by Sandor Veress. All of which should make it the perfect taster for everything that follows.

Sibelius One, Royal Scottish National Orchestra 
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Friday; Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, October 28

“Music is, for me, like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together,” Jean Sibelius once said. “He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.” 
The Finnish composer was always an expert picture restorer and his first symphony, a thing of icy-breathed romanticism, written when he was in his early 30s, is prime evidence. Kristiina Poska conducts the RSNO in this performance, with soloist Rachel Barton Pine on violin. The programme will also feature Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and African-American composer Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No 2. 

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine 
Perth Concert Hall, October 28; Usher Hall, Edinburgh, October 29

Ukraine’s symphony orchestra has continued to practise and play in Kyiv since the war broke out last year. But this autumn it is coming to the UK to perform – via coach to Warsaw as there are no planes in or out of Ukraine. Conductor Volodymyr Sirenko and soloists Aleksey Semenenko (violin) and Antonii Baryshevskyi (piano) will lead the orchestra’s performances of popular classics and introduce audiences to Ukrainian musical culture.

The Herald:

Steve Reich +, Scottish Chamber Orchestra 
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, November 9; City Halls, Glasgow, November 10

Not all classical music has to be old, of course. In November the SCO brings a programme of modern minimalism to Edinburgh and Glasgow with this programme which features two works - Pulse and Radio Rewrite, the latter a reworking of two tracks by Radiohead -  from the Ameri-can master of contemporary classical, Steve Reich. The programme also includes music by Arvo Part (Fratres) and Julia Wolfe (Fuel), as well as Louis Andriessen’s Tapdance, which was written especially for percussion soloist Colin Currie, who directs this performance. There will also be electronic accompaniment provided by DJ Dolphin Boy.

Verdi Requiem, City of Glasgow Chorus 
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, November 12

Founded in 1983 by Graham Taylor, the City of Glasgow Chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary with this performance of Verdi’s Requiem, originally composed in honour of author and poet Alessandro Manzoni (though part of it had originally been written to commemorate the composer Rossini). As music critic Jeremy Pound has noted, it’s a “big-boned” work, so eminently suitable to mark such an anniversary. The City of Glasgow Chorus will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Paul Keohone will conduct and the concert will feature soprano Elena Xanthoudakis, tenor Charne Rochford, mezzo soprano Cheryl Forbes and baritone David Stout.

The Herald:

Esteemed violinist Bojan Cicic joins the Dunedin Consort for this programme celebrating the range and variety of the music of Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi. The programme will include Vivaldi’s Sinfonia a 4 in C major, Concerto in B flat major “L’elite des Concerto Italiens” and Concerto for violin in A major “per li Coglioni” (which translates as “for the idiots”; that should cover most of us).

Elgar’s Symphony No 1, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Glasgow City Halls, November 23; Usher Hall, Edinburgh, November 26

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.” A spot of Shakespeare seems appropriate for this evening of (mostly) English music, headlined by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s take on Elgar’s Symphony No 1, first performed in Manchester in 1908. 
Within weeks it had been performed in both America and Russia. But you won’t have to travel quite so far this November. 
The programme also sees a performance of Yorkshire composer Jonathan Woolgar’s Canzoni et Ricercari and the very un-English Piano Concerto No 20 in D minor by some bloke called Mozart. Ryan Wigglesworth conducts and Martin James Bartlett, BBC Young Musician 2014, plays piano.

Christmas Oratorio, Royal Scottish National Orchestra 
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, November 24; Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, November 25

One of the highlights of the RSNO’s busy 2023/2024 season promises to be this performance of Sir James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio conducted by the composer himself. Featuring the RSNO Chorus, soprano Rhian Lois and baritone Roderick Williams, it’s hard to think of a better way for the RSNO to celebrate its 180th anniversary.

Daphne, Scottish Opera 
Usher Hall, December 10

This matinee performance offers another chance to see Scottish Opera’s take on Richard Strauss’s opera, which received its highly-praised Scottish premiere last month in Glasgow. Loosely based on stories from Greek mythology, this was one of Strauss’s own favourite compositions. Hye-Youn Lee plays the titular role with support from, Shengzhi Ren playing Leukippos, Brad Cooper as Apollo and Claire-Barnett Jones as Gaea. Stuart Stratford conducts and the concert staging is by Emma Jenkins.

The Herald:
Concerts by Candlelight, Scottish Ensemble 
St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, December 7; Inverness Cathedral, Inverness, December 8, Dundee Parish Church (St Mary’s), Dundee, December 9; St John’s Kirk, Perth, December 11; Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, December 12; Wellington Church, Glasgow, December 13

And finally, Scottish Ensemble offers a pre-Christmas treat with this series of concerts in churches and cathedrals, all illuminated by candlelight. The programme will include Arvo Part’s O Emmanuel, John Tavener’s The Lamb, Joanna Marsh’s In Winter’s House and the world premiere of a new work by Glasgow-based composer David Fennessey. 
A soft kiss of music and light to ward off the winter dark.