Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Here's Runnicles! - is a name change required? (or 'Best News Ever')

Well, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. World peace (or in the Middle-East, at least), cures for aids or cancer and an annulment of the Supreme Court's infamous decision of 2000 would all be better news. Even in the world of music I could imagine better (Runnicles to lead Ring cycle in revival of Scottish Opera's acclaimed production, the news following better funding and some decent management). Still, given our complaint that the eponymous Mr Runnicles has been too absent from the Scottish musical scene in recent years, indeed, the very name of this blog was a tongue in cheek jibe at the Festival for not engaging his services this year, it is hard to think of how the news of his return to Scotland could easily be topped.

True, it could be better. He could be joining an Orchestra on our side of the country (the BBC Scottish do not, sadly, do a joint programme, meaning I'll be contributing to increased revenues for train operators), but the RSNO seem very happy with Deneve and while the SCO are in need to a chief conductor, Runnicles has developed a very special relationship with the BBC Scottish over the last couple of years and it will be wonderful to hear this develop.

Of course, the real hole is at the top of Scottish Opera (the SCO seem to be humming along fine without a director). They have been leaderless since Richard Armstrong left. Actually, a check of the Scottish Opera website just now, shows that isn't quite true. Francesco Corti (who?) has been appointed, and apparently took up the post in August (though in quite what sense is a question worth asking since he will not actually conduct anything until the 2008/9 season). Unfortunately, given the current state and funding of the company and their failure to nurture young Scottish talent in recent years, without more substantial changes behind the scenes, a Runnicles directorship might well be wasted on it.

Runnicles will be spending a minimum of eight weeks a year with the orchestra and will both record and tour with them. Indeed, one of the great boons of this is that as many of the orchestra's concerts are broadcast on Radio 3, we will have a lot more of him on our airwaves. According to the BBC, the appointement will also mean engagements at the Edinburgh festival, the very lack or which this year gave us our name. He last appeared on 26th August 2006. Earlier that evening he was spied in the Grand Circle of the Usher Hall listening to Charles Mackerras's superb performance of Beethoven's 7th symphony (now available on Hyperion), sadly he was seated close enough to the door that he escaped harassment for an autograph. Three hours later he was standing before the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and leading a magical performance of Bruckner's 6th symphony (including an enchanting moment where he seemed almost to dance on the podium, and the orchestra with him). We stood at the end of that performance, in part because it was superb, in part to put our marker down to Mr Mills and impress upon him the importance of engaging Mr Runnicles in the future. To the extent that was our aim, we failed in so far as this year's programme was concerned. But from today's news we couldn't really have asked for more. The Scotsman and the Herald seem to agree.

Where's Runnicles? Well, over there in Glasgow (from 2009, at least). We'll be there to hear how it goes. Those who can't wait can catch him in April with Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and MacMillan's 3rd symphony.

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