Thursday, 27 March 2014

The 2014/15 SCO Season

Today, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra launch their 2014/15 season. It opens with a work one would not immediately expect from a chamber orchestra: Mahler's 4th symphony. One might logically assume that it is one of the chamber arrangements (such as Erwin Stein's), but nothing in press information or the brochure suggests this. It must therefore be assumed that they will perform the full version, which would not be out of kilter with Ticciati's fondness for works more usually programmed with larger forces. After all, a couple of years ago they started with the Symphonie Fantastique. More interesting, to me, is the pairing: a new concerto for harp by Hosokawa.

Mahler is something of a theme, with Das Lied von der Erde cropping up later on (which this time is an arrangement, Cortese's though, not Schoenberg, as was the case when he programmed it a couple of years ago). Both concerts also feature Karen Cargill. I'm once again reminded of an April fool I considered a few years back involving an SCO season with a Mahler cycle, but I've written about that before (sadly season announcements in late March are not conducive to such a joke).

Fortunately, alongside one of Ticciati's less appealing, to me, programming tendencies as chief conductor, is one of his most: a series of Haydn's symphonies are scattered through the year, including 70, 101 , 103 and 104. Better yet, as I have long been requesting, he will take the orchestra into the studio with Linn to record six of them. I also look forward to hearing Ticciati's take on Schubert's great C major symphony towards the end of the season.

Haydn is a running theme, with other conductors bringing a further two symphonies. We are also treated to some of the composer's fine choral writing: first the Harmoniemesse from conductor Tonu Kaljuste (coupled with two short works by Part) and then to close the season The Creation with conductor Christopher Hogwood. These, together with Mozart's Requiem and Handel's Messiah (the latter about a month early), ensure that Gregory Batsleer and the chorus will have plenty to sink their teeth into.

There are a couple of exciting (and possibly new) visitors. First and foremost for me is Mitsuko Uchida, who will play Ravel's piano concerto. She is followed, a few weeks later, by Nicholas Collon, the exciting music director of the Aurora Orchestra. He brings a programme which includes Britten's arrangement of Mahler's What the Wild Flowers Tell Me, a new piece by Martin Suckling and Brahms' first serenade.

Joseph Swensen celebrates the Nielsen and Sibelius anniversary. While in general the RSNO's treatment of this is more interesting, I particularly look forward to hearing Maximiliano Martin play Nielsen's clarinet concerto, and I'm always happy to hear Sibelius's 4th symphony. These are joined by a new work from John McLeod. John Storgards, himself a good Sibelian, returns with a programme including Schubert, Zemlinsky and Beethoven's Egmont. The whole thing, not just the overture, which I'll be interested to hear. While it will doubtless excite some, Elisabeth Leonskaja's visit with Okko Kamu to perform both Brahms piano concertos in a single programme seems a little heavy for my taste.

We, at least we in Edinburgh, get three varied Sunday afternoon chamber programmes. The first mixes Strauss, Prokofiev, Strauss arranged by Schoenberg and the latter then arranging Webern. Clear? Later instalments combine Mozart with Poulenc and Haydn, while also straying off the beaten track for some Krommer. We also get another opportunity for Peter Whelan to demonstrate that in addition to being an exceptional bassoonist, he's also no slouch on the harpsichord.

It seems to be the year for quietly dropping series. On Tuesday, the RSNO's Naked Classics vanished and today it is the turn of the Cl@six early evening series to disappear without trace. This comes a year after the move to the refurbished Assembly Rooms provided them with a half decent acoustic.

Full details can be found on the SCO website via the sort of interactive brochure which regular readers will know I hate (it takes up your whole screen and allows no download option). Though in fairness this may just be because they've put that bit up before the official launch.

Finally, and since it's traditional for me to have this moan, and there's at least some correlation (if not definitive causation) between some of the things I write here and what comes to pass, I'll make my annual plea for the orchestra to engage James Lowe for a regular season concert.

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