The Scottish Chamber Orchestra starts December with a seasonal treat: a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio conducted by popular SCO guest Richard Egarr (Queen’s Hall Edinburgh: 1 December; City Halls Glasgow: 2 December). Bach’s oratorio was written for performance on six feast days of Christmas during the winter of 1734 and 1735. The Orchestra will perform four of the work’s six cantatas: the first tells of the birth of Jesus; the third of the adoration of the shepherds and the fifth and sixth of the journey and adoration of the Magi. Egarr, who is widely recognised as one of the worlds’ finest Bach interpreters, leads a magnificent cast of British singers: soprano Mhairi Lawson, mezzo Clare Wilkinson, tenor Andrew Staples and bass Andrew Foster-Williams.
Egarr commented: “The Christmas Oratorio, like all of Bach’s cantatas, contains his most personal and most colourful music. Every time I explore a new one of the over 200 cantatas, I’m amazed at the world that Bach creates in these pieces. You can always discover wonderful musical cores with the Christmas Oratorio cantatas, all 6 of them are fantastic and very different.”
Composer Haflidi Hallgrimsson – born in Iceland but long a resident of Edinburgh – celebrates his 70th birthday this year. His links with the SCO stretch back over many years: he was Principal Cellist with the Orchestra for 6 years until 1983, and, since he turned to composition full-time, it has premiered a number of his works and recorded his Cello Concertos with the great Norwegian soloist Truls Mørk. To mark his 70th, the Orchestra is joined by Jennifer Pike, BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2002, for the world premiere of his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Op 46 (commissioned by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra). Spanish conductor Enrique Mazzola frames the new work with two Nordic treasures: Sibelius’ atmospheric and very successful theatre score for King Kristian II and Grieg’s youthful Symphony in C. The concerts take place at St Andrews’ Younger Hall: 7 December, Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall: 8 December and Glasgow City Halls: on 9 December.
Hallgrimsson said: “In my new violin concerto the soloist is as ‘busy as a bee’, gradually introducing a string of varied ideas that are later revisited and made to ‘bloom’ whenever possible. The orchestra supports the soloist by providing a climate of rich and finely graded harmonies, but makes its presence felt now and then in short sonorous tuttis. In short; a virtuosic violin concerto written specially for a young brilliant soloist in a form, best described as a large ‘fluid rondo’.”
The Orchestra spreads some pre-Christmas joy in its final concerts of the year, with a delightful celebration of the music of Mozart directed by Alexander Janiczek (Glasgow City Halls: 16 December, Edinburgh Queen’s Hall: 17 December). A native of Salzburg who has lived and breathed this music from an early age, Janiczek brings an extraordinary stylishness and musicality to this repertoire. He is reunited with SCO Principal Viola Jane Atkins for the Sinfonia Concertante, a musical pairing which drew considerable acclaim when they last performed together