First published in The Herald on 30 August, 2017
We reach the end of a couple of eras. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has yet to name its next principal conductor but Robin Ticciati has already started his new job with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra Berlin, and their debut recording together, a beautiful disc of Debussy and Faure soon to be released on Linn, suggests the move has been a good one. Ticciati’s final season with the SCO focuses on the music of Dvorak and welcomes some illustrious pianists, with opening night including Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony and Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart (Edinburgh & Glasgow, October 12 & 13) and Andras Schiff performing Dvorak’s rarely-heard Piano Concerto (Edinburgh & Glasgow, December 7 & 8).
In Glasgow, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra plays musical chairs. The orchestra has already named its next music director as current principal guest conductor Thomas Sondergard, who arguably should have had the top job all along. Filling his shoes as guest will be the vibrant young Elim Chan, a fine choice. Outgoing music director Peter Oundjian makes the most of his last season in Scotland by ticking off orchestral big-hitters: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Dundee, Edinburgh & Glasgow, October 5-7), Sibelius’s Second Symphony (Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, October 12-14), Beethoven’s Pastoral (Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow; November 2-4), Brahms’s German Requiem (Edinburgh, Glasgow, December 1-2) – and that’s just before Christmas.
No transfers to report at City Halls, where the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra opens its new season with chief conductor Thomas Dausgaard’s ‘composer roots’ series. This is where Dausgaard looks at a composer in the context of his (for they are all he) heritage, be it folk music, sacred chant or some other lineage that seems relevant. It’s a simple notion but simple notions are often the strongest, and if you heard the orchestra’s Rachmaninov Prom last month you’ll know how effective a clever segueway can be. (The Latvian Chamber Choir sang Russian Orthodox chants as introductions to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony and Third Piano Concerto; the impact was breathtaking.)
So to start the BBCSSO season we get Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the company of Palestrina and Haydn via Bach, Handel and more (September 1, Glasgow); other highlights this autumn include Karen Cargill, fresh from a triumphant summer singing Wagner and Mahler in Edinburgh and Schoenberg at the Proms, in Elgar’s Sea Pictures (Glasgow & Edinburgh, September 28 & October 1, Edinburgh; the Glasgow concert also includes the next instalment of the orchestra’s Tippett symphony cycle). Matthias Pintscher conducts Siddhartha by the Quebecois visionary Claude Vivier (November 11) and Ilan Volkov conducts music by Cassandra Miller and Salvatore Sciarrino alongside Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony (November 16).
Festival-wise, the behemoth that is Edinburgh makes way for more secluded autumn happenings. In the west, James MacMillan’s Cumnock Tryst takes place around Ayrshire from September 28-October 1 and features Scottish percussion luminary Colin Currie. In the east, the superb Lammermuir Festival runs September 15-24 and this year’s programme looks better than ever. Mozart’s comic opera rarity La Finta Giardiniera is staged by Rydale Festival Opera; pianist Steven Osborne is in recital with cellist Alban Gerhardt; Lars Vogt plays Beethoven Piano Concertos with the Royal Northern Sinfonia; the Quartet Mosaique is in residence; the Gould Piano Trio gets installed for various coffee concerts and the premiere of a new work by Stuart Macrae; the Orlando Consort give two concerts including a live soundtrack to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.
The Dunedin Consort is a Lammermuir fixture and this year you can hear members Huw Daniel, Alison McGillivray and Jan Waterfield playing Buxtehude, John Butt playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations and the whole band closing the festival with Handel’s oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Elsewhere, catch the Dunedins performing Bach masses in Edinburgh and Aberdeen (October 29 and 30) and get hold of their latest recording: Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, released on Linn next week.
Looking north, Sound festival takes over Aberdeen and environs from October 26 – November 11 and its theme is northernness, with director Fiona Robertson questioning “whether there is such a thing as a northern sound in classical, folk, jazz and electroacoustic music.” Composer Pete Stollery adds that “the beginning of the twentieth century coincided with the unfolding of the mature and distinctive output of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. To many this represents the beginning of the phenomenon of ‘a northern sound world’; others might regard Sibelius’ works as a further development of pre-existing northern approaches to some of the elements of music – notably texture, melody, timbre, harmony and pace. What is not in dispute,” Stollery ventures, “is the extent to which creative musical endeavour in northern parts of the world, particularly northern Europe, has blossomed in the decades since Sibelius.” To be discussed!
Sound opens with Montreal’s new music specialists the Bozzini Quartet, and the festival launches a five-year project around “endangered musical instruments”… cue stars of the bassoon world Pascal Gallois, Laurence Perkins, Lesley Wilson and Peter Whelan, and new music for bassoon including a piece by Benedict Mason co-commissioned by Red Note Ensemble. Incidentally, Red Note also feature at this year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, with new works by James Dillon opening the festival and, with the brilliant accordionist Andreas Borregaard, music by Maja S K Ratkje in a new installation by Kathy Hinde. (Huddersfield, November 17-18).
Beyond festivals, if you’re in the vicinity of Tobermory tomorrow you can be first to hear the Scottish Ensemble’s latest tour programme (string quintets by Mozart, Brahms and Mendelssohn – touring Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Perth and Dumfries from October 12-17). In November the Ensemble teams up with theatre company Vanishing Point for a drama that, they say, “sets Arvo Pärt’s spiritual and mesmeric Tabula Rasa in a theatrical context, exploring the recognised role of the piece in the care of patients during their final days”. (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, November 3-24).
Edinburgh’s venerable New Town Concerts were founded in the 1960s as a subscription series with an well-intentioned (if slightly damning) ambition “to light up the 49 weeks of musical darkness over the winter months between one Edinburgh International Festival and the next.” The name dates back to the Freemasons’ Hall in George Street, which hosted chamber concerts until the series decamped to the Queen’s Hall in the 1980s. This year’s programme opens with pianist Paul Lewis (October 23), and the Quartetto di Cremona brings an all-Italian programme (November 20). The Cremona group also features at Milngavie Music Club on October 14, as do the excellent young Van Kuijk Quartet on 11 November; both play Beethoven.
For local quartets, try the Edinburgh Quartet in Tchaikovsky and Janacek in Glasgow, Dunkeld, Edinburgh and Lerwick (November 9-15) or the excellent Glasgow-based Maxwell Quartet, led by violinist Colin Scobie and powered by cellist Duncan Strachan, who are off to compete in the Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition in late September then play concerts in Crear, Milngavie, Musselburgh and Glasgow (November 3-18).
Miscellany. The Hebrides Ensemble performs Schumann and Schubert song via orchestrations by Reinbert de Leeuw in a setting “reminiscent of the Weimar cabaret scene”. (Glasgow, Edinburgh, November 20 & 22). Perth’s heavyweight series of Sunday afternoon piano recitals opens on 24 September with Richard Goode, followed by Alexander Gavrylyuk (October 8) and Imogen Cooper (November 5). And finally, the heats kick off this Friday for the Scottish International Piano Competition: 32 pianists from 20 countries will be whittled down to three for the final (Glasgow, September 10). Competitions are odd affairs but can be full of revelations.