The value of a calm head in the ever-chang­ing world of the arts

The Herald - Arts - - OPINION - KEITH BRUCE

LAST night the Scot­tish Cham­ber Orches­tra played the fi­nal con­cert of its 2015/16 sea­son in Glas­gow’s City Halls. Al­though we bad farewell to chief ex­ec­u­tive Roy McEwan in The Her­ald on Wed­nes­day, and this week’s con­certs fea­tured mu­sic he had par­tic­u­larly cho­sen to hear, it is not as if any­one in­volved is ex­actly idle in the com­ing months. Be­fore the end of the month, the SCO starts its sum­mer con­certs, ei­ther en­tire or as groups of string or wind play­ers. Com­ing up, be­fore the musicians’ con­tri­bu­tion to the Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val, are gigs in (deep breath) Cas­tle Dou­glas, Duns, Largs, Stir­ling, Kin­gussie, Find­horn, East Neuk of Fife, Pax­ton, Drum­nadro­chit, Dundee, Skye, Blair­gowrie, Cal­lan­der, Mus­sel­burgh, In­ver­ness, Cults, and Blair Atholl. All the right notes, in pre­cisely that or­der. Selkirk, He­lens­burgh and La­nark have to wait un­til Septem­ber, by which time McEwan will re­ally have gone, hand­ing over to cur­rent di­rec­tor of the BBC SSO Gavin Reid af­ter the Fes­ti­val’s clos­ing Vir­gin Money Fire­works Con­cert.

That sum­mer sched­ule rep­re­sents a mighty ef­fort of or­gan­i­sa­tion, not just by the orches­tra’s ad­min team, but in­di­vid­u­ally by all the play­ers who, as free­lances, have other work on their agen­das, as soloists, cham­ber mu­sic group mem­bers and teach­ers for ex­am­ple. What has struck me as I looked at the past year of work by the SCO, was how that rel­a­tively small or­gan­i­sa­tion – by com­par­i­son with our other na­tional com­pa­nies – has coped with a re­cent run of en­forced changes with the ab­so­lute min­i­mum of fuss. McEwan’s sched­ule for re­ti­ral was surely well-known in­ter­nally, but a suc­ces­sor for the man who has run the show for al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury still had to be found. Less pre­dictable was the loss of Prin­ci­pal Conductor Robin Tic­ciati ear­lier this year, hos­pi­talised by a her­ni­ated disc in his spine, and now re­cov­er­ing af­ter surgery. He is due to re­turn to the podium for the orches­tra’s Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val con­cert of Ber­lioz’s Romeo and Juliet on Au­gust 18, and the con­clu­sion of his sur­vey of the works of Jo­hannes Brahms this sea­son was as­sumed by the hap­pily-avail­able Prin­ci­pal Guest Conductor Em­manuel Kriv­ine (even if the per­for­mance of the Re­quiem needed another late sub­sti­tu­tion of Roland Wood for Matthias Go­erne).

The orches­tra has re­cently lost a very close as­so­ciate in com­poser Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, whose com­po­si­tion Ebb of Win­ter marked the SCO’s 40th an­niver­sary in 2014, one of a score of works com­mis­sioned or pre­miered by the SCO, in­clud­ing the 10 Strath­clyde Con­cer­tos writ­ten to show­case the tal­ent within this par­tic­u­lar en­sem­ble. There was to have been a brand new ac­cor­dion con­certo in the 16/17 sea­son, but “Max” did not com­plete it be­fore his death, so the con­certs at the start of De­cem­ber will now fea­ture the sec­ond of those Strath­clyde Con­cer­tos, for cello, played by the soloist at its 1989 pre­miere, Wil­liam Con­way. Be­fore then, Linn Records is to re­lease a disc of some of the last record­ings the com­poser over­saw, with young gui­tarist Sean Shibe as well as the SCO play­ing Ebb of Win­ter and the ever pop­u­lar An Orkney Wed­ding, with Sun­rise, which will also fea­ture in the De­cem­ber con­certs.

Cri­sis? What cri­sis? one might ob­serve. McEwan came to the SCO from an arts man­age­ment rather than an aca­dem­i­cally mu­si­cal back­ground, while his suc­ces­sor is a mu­si­cian who has moved into man­age­ment, but how­ever dif­fer­ent the two men are, I sus­pect that the SCO board may have noted in Reid some­thing of the same un­flap­pa­bil­ity that has dis­tin­guished the ten­ure of Roy McEwan. These past months have shown the value of that.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.