Saturday, June 23, 2007

New season for the SCO

By Kenneth Walton
From The Scotsman - Thu 19 Apr 2007

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) is to add a fresh dimension to the Edinburgh concert scene next season with a brand new series of rush-hour concerts called CL@SIX, to be held on a single Tuesday each month in the centrally located St Cuthbert's Parish Church. It's one of several neat mini-packages outlined in yesterday's launch of the orchestra's 2007-8 season.
The timing is noteworthy. While the Royal Scottish National Orchestra - also announcing its new season plans yesterday - revealed that its experimental Symphonies at Six initative was being dropped after only a year, to be replaced in Glasgow only with a series of popular early evening Classical Bites, the SCO was stepping bullishly into the east-coast breach with a series of easy listening programmes aimed unequivocally at the popular tea-time market.
The formula of CL@SIX is perfectly straightforward - programmes of accessible music, lasting an hour at the most, in a venue close enough to the city centre to capture the homebound worker. They range from concerts featuring Vivaldi's Four Seasons, directed by violinist Anthony Marwood, and Mozart's wind extravaganza, the Gran Partita, to more composite programmes of city symphonies - Mozart's The Hague and Paris and Haydn's Oxford - and a choral concert of Bach and Górecki by the SCO Chorus.
But that's only one aspect of a season peppered with intrigue - one which opens curiously not in Edinburgh but Glasgow and Aberdeen, and under the baton of the orchestra's new principal guest conductor, the impressive Estonian, Olari Elts.
These two opening concerts mark - by all but a fortnight - the 50th anniversary of Sibelius's death.
Elts combines works representative of each creative phase in the Finnish composer's life, including the Seventh Symphony and Violin Concerto.
The list of debut artists heralds even newer blood in a season that covers every conceivable area of repertoire, from Handel's opera Theodora to a cello concerto by the contemporary Icelandic composer, and former SCO principal cellist, Haflidi Hallgrimsson. Newcomers among the SCO's guest performers include violinists Reka Szilvay and Ranaud Capucon (also appearing next season with the RSNO), conductor Okko Kamu (more Sibelius) and singer Lucy Crowe.
Among returning SCO regulars are the conductors Andrew Manze, Joseph Swensen, the inveterate Sir Charles Mackerras, and the supercharged Nicholas McGegan, whose presence in the Viennese New Year Concert is guaranteed to put a rocket up even the most graceful of Strauss waltzes.
In a post-New Year fourconcert series called Director's Notes, four well-known pianists adopt the fashionable dual role of performer/director.
Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen - who so impressed Glasgow audiences last week in a stunning appearance with the BBC SSO - tackles Prokofiev and Mozart symphonies alongside Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto; Piotr Anderszewski couples Beethoven's First Concerto with Haydn's D major; Christian Zacharias (an experienced hand with the SCO) goes for a complete Beethoven show; and Stephen Kovacevich throws Mozart into the equation.

The SCO's commitment to the more modern repertoire remains undiminished, packaged mainly as the excellent Adventurer series. Here, Garry Walker and the Rascher Saxophone Quartet join forces for a mouthwatering concoction of Sally Beamish's Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Strings, the late Thomas Wilson's Fifth Symphony, the outrageous H K Gruber's Manhattan Broadcasts, and Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks - a work Walker successfully conducted with the RSNO only a few weeks ago.
Among a barrage of premieres are works by Judith Weir, Oliver Knussen and Mark-Anthony Turnage, whose concerto for bass/bass guitar brings back to Scotland the brilliant American multi-styled bassist, John Patitucci.

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