The SCO, BBC SSO, and RSNO: what to expect from their new seasons
We look at forthcoming attractions from Scotland's three largest orchestras
Conductor Donald Runnicles
Scotland has many orchestras but three big ones in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. And while some may question whether Scotland needs so many orchestras in this era of austerity-driven arts cuts, looking at their 2015-16 seasons, who'd want to lose them? In the world of Scotland's orchestras, the coming year is far from business as usual.
The BBC SSO
The orchestra is celebrating its 80th birthday and saying farewell to eminent Chief Conductor Donald Runnicles, who's programmed a bill of bracing Teutonic classicism. Highlights include Mahler's First and Tenth symphonies, the latter as restored by Deryck Cooke; Sibelius' last three symphonies on one bill, for a triple-shot of Arctic moodiness; Beethoven's staggering Missa Solemnis; the young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein playing Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No 2, and a musical tribute to Hitchcock. The work of seldom-heard Korean composer Unsuk Chin is also nicely seeded throughout the year. Runnicles will be replaced by Sweden's Thomas Dausgaard, who as a fan of contemporary Scandinavian music, can be expected to bring some new sounds to Scottish audiences.
See our full listings for the BBC SSO.
Also having a birthday is the RSNO, turning 125 in 2016. Music Director Peter Oundjian has crafted a highly Romantic programme, and we mean that literally. Around (if not actually on) Valentine's Day, punters can swoon to Mahler's Adagietto and Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, but the season is dripping with masterworks by Berlioz, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Chopin and Szymanowski. There's also a focus on Stravinsky, including the Rite of Spring (and if you haven't experienced it, the Breaking Bad of classical music, now's your chance) and new works by Scotland's great living Romantic, James MacMillan. It all climaxes, so to speak, with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
See our full listings for the RSNO.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is having a welcome fit of Brahms, delivering no less than six concerts featuring the work of the smartest, subtlest and saddest of composers. All four symphonies and the Requiem will be performed, and guest conductor Emmanuel Krivine has programmed the Haydn Variations in a concert also featuring the work of Brahms' great rival, Wagner. John Butt conducts music by JS Bach and two of his sons, tearaway WF and golden boy CPE; there are new works by Finland's Lotta Wennäkoski and Iceland's Hafliði Hallgrímsson; and three of Beethoven's most exciting symphonies: the Third, the Fifth and the Seventh. For kids, there's Jonathan Dove's fairy tale The Crocodiamond, with a story by Anthony Horowitz.
See our full listings for the SCO.
Scotland has too many orchestras? Germany has fifteen times Scotland's population, but forty times as many orchestras. Clearly, we need to catch up.
Celebrating 125 Years of Scotland's National Orchestra
RSNO: Oundjian and Benedetti
Nicola Benedetti is front and centre for Szymanowski's last major work, the Violin Concerto No 2, which pits lively folk rhythms against modernist orchestral timbres. There's the Scottish premiere of James MacMillan's Little Mass, performed by the RSNO Junior Chorus, and finally there's Berlioz's crazy-awesome Symphonie…
RSNO: Buniatishvili Plays Liszt
Robert Schumann bookends a programme of lush romanticism with the Overture, Scherzo and Finale Op 52 and Symphony No 1, plus Wagner's tender Siegfried Idyll and Liszt's Piano Concerto No 2, featuring the acclaimed young Georgian virtuoso Khatia Buniatishvili. Christoph Altstaedt conducts.
RSNO: Søndergård conducts Pathétique
Thomas Søndergård conducts Sibelius' Symphony No 6, Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto with Kari Kriikuu and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 6 'Pathétique'.
RSNO: Davis Conducts Mahler Four
After a couple of bracing snifters (Delius A Song for Sunrise and Berg's Seven Early Songs, with soprano Erin Wall) Sir Andrew Davis leads you up the mountain that is Mahler's Symphony No 4.
RSNO: Oundjian Conducts Brahms Two
Peter Oundjian conducts Berlioz's Le carnival romain and Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, featuring soloist Ray Chen (violin), followed by Brahms' exhilarating Symphony No 2.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Brahms Serenade
Baritone Mark Stone performs the Scottish premiere of Martin Suckling's highly-acclaimed cycle of settings of poems by Don Paterson, Candlebird. There's also Britten's arrangement of Mahler's What the Wild Flowers Tell Me and Brahms' Serenade No 1. Nicholas Collon conducts.
BBC SSO: Mahler 10
Mahler's ultimately peaceful Symphony No 10 was left unfinished at his death, but it was completed with great sensitivity by the musicologist Deryck Cooke, who was keen that the composer's last testament not be thought to be the awesomely downbeat Symphony No 9. It's presented here with Glazunov's Violin Concerto…
BBC SSO: Sibelius 5, 6 & 7
Sibelius's Fifth, Sixth and Seventh symphonies – icy, majestic, beautiful – are three of the most exhilarating works in the repertoire. They're conducted here by the BBC SSO's new Chief Conductor-Designate, Thomas Dausgaard.
BBC SSO: Schumann's Second Symphony
Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel is followed by Korean composer Unsuk Chin's Šu, in part a showpiece for sheng soloist Wu Wei – the sheng, in case you've never heard of it, is a sort of Korean equivalent to a harmonica (but not really). Finally, Schumann's Symphony No 2 is a masterpiece of Romanticism. Markus Stenz…
BBC SSO: Beethoven's Missa Solemnis
Beethoven's mighty mass, performed by Kim-Lillian Strebel (soprano); Stephanie Lauricella (mezzo-soprano); Toby Spence (tenor), Marko Mimica (bass), the Edinburgh Festival Chorus
with chorus master Christopher Bell, and conducted by Donald Runnicles.
MacMillan & Sibelius
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Edward Gardner Conductor
Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Christopher Bell Chorus Master
Colin Currie Percussion
Anna Larsson Mezzo soprano
Johan Reuter Baritone
James MacMillan Percussion Concerto No 2
For composer James MacMillan, Scottish…
RSNO: Mahler's Resurrection
There's only one item on the bill for the first concert of the RSNO's 2015/16 season, but you wouldn't want anything else after the shattering experience of a good performance of Mahler's Symphony No 2, an epic journey of death and rebirth. Featured soloists are Valentina Farcas (soprano) and Sarah Connolly (mezzo), with…
RSNO: Oundjian conducts Tchaikovsky Five
It's a swirling wellspring of emotions in this concert: Tchaikovsky's romantic Symphony No 5 is accompanied by Brett Dean's dark Viola Concerto, featuring the composer himself; raising the curtain is Borodin's 'Overture' to Prince Igor. Peter Oundjian conducts.
RSNO: Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto
Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 2 was the first of its composer's pieces to be warmly received, and it helped pull Rachmaninov out of a three-year depression and creative block; here soloist Boris Giltburg seeks to recreate the magic. There's also Mahler's Adagietto, Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien, and Richard Strauss's…
RSNO: Lazarev conducts Cinderella
RSNO Conductor Emeritus wields the baton for a night of Russian music: Rachmaninov's Caprice bohémien and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No 4 (for the left hand) – like Ravel's, also commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, although he never played it – and Suite from Cinderella. The immensely talented Nikolai Lugansky is a leftie…
RSNO: Ode to Joy
Beethoven's Symphony No 9 is a lot of things: an extended exploration of the possibilities of symphonic writing, a hymn to universal brotherhood, an explosion of rage, a giant knees-up – whether you find it exhilarating or terrifying depends on your point of view, but nobody can deny that it has immense power. It's a…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No 1
Brahms' Symphony No 1 used to be nicknamed 'Beethoven's Tenth' because its rugged grandeur reminded early listeners of Beethoven's work; this annoyed Brahms, who had spent years working on it precisely so that people wouldn't think he'd just knocked it out. Here it's accompanied by its composer's cheerful Academic…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No 2
Having spent 15 years writing his Symphony No 1, Brahms wrote his second symphony over the course of a single summer, which goes some way to explain its upbeat mood. Here it's with the Manfred Overture by Brahms' great friend Schumann, and the Piano Concerto of Arnold Schoenberg, Brahms' most brilliant 20th century…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Brahms Requiem
Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem sounds like the work of an old man looking back at a long, hard life, which is odd because Brahms wrote it in his early 30s – but then, Brahms was born old. This sombre masterpiece was his first great work for orchestra that wasn't a concerto, and here it features Kate Royal (soprano) and…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No 4
Brahms' Symphony No 4 is a tragedy – not the kind of tragedy where something sad becomes a headline, but the original kind, a carefully constructed drama based on human suffering, from which you walk away purged at the end. Here it goes with Jörg Widmann’s Ikarische Klage and Schumann's Violin Concerto, featuring Alina…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: The Maiden in the Tower
Kicking off with the world premiere of a new work from the fascinating Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski, there's also Nielsen's Violin Concerto and conductor Tuomas Hannikainen's arrangement of music from Sibelius's only opera, The Maiden in the Tower. Pekka Kuusisto (violin) is the guest soloist.