Maxim Emelyanychev

Friday, January 8, 2021

Halle aux grains, 1 Place Dupuy, 31000 Toulouse, France

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Maxim Emelyanychev, born in 1988, studied in Nizhny-Novgorod with the veteran Margarita Samorukova and in Moscow with Rozhdestvensky. Dispensing with baton, he brings a freshness and rhythmic spring to his music-making that’s involving. He gets an orchestra to respond fierily, going in particular for grounded cadences and ringing full-voiced tuttis, happy to let the brass have its say. Communicative body language, expressive hands, and an encouraging, approachable personality add up to an energised presence on the podium.

Opening this Schumann, non-audience, programme, the relatively unfamiliar Overture to Genoveva (1850) proved a confident visiting card, with committed unanimity and virtuosity from the Toulouse orchestra, horn section not least. Closing, the Fourth Symphony (1851 version, with repeats) had blazing moments with a bigness of attack and argument bordering on the Brucknerian more than Brahmsian. Surprisingly so in places. The transition into the Finale had just the right sense of weight and cosmic darkness, shades of Beethoven Nine first-movement coda never far away.

I did wonder, though, at some of Emelyanychev’s tempo decisions. He raced the allegros very fast, stretching the strings and occasionally losing clarity of entries and ensemble. For sure there was plenty of visceral excitement – a young man intoxicated by the strength and sound, the endless possibilities, of a class orchestra before him, every now and again slipping into fantasy mode. My heart warmed to the spectacle. Yet my head questioned the breathlessness of some of the phrases and joins, the rushed Romanza (pushing the leader, Mathilde Borsarello-Herrmann), the oddly braked lurches, the sense of a mounting storm at sea. The players – distanced, masked strings, separate desks, antiphonal violins – applauded, visibly having relished the workout. But reasoned moderation, a keener response to paragraphing and structure, would have yielded greater stature.

Once into the Concerto Emelyanychev settled into a comfortingly supportive groove, veins of imagination and theatre, a willingness to play with time, surfacing – the lead into the Finale being one striking moment. Adam Laloum, winner of the 2009 Clara Haskil Competition, dispatched the solo part efficiently if episodically, tending to prolong the slower material but then hasten the faster passages, arguably over-doing the Eusebius/Florestan dimension at the cost of architectural direction. His headstrong approach to the first-movement cadenza didn’t result in the cleanest finger-work, nor was ensemble in the last movement of the tightest. Notwithstanding, everyone seemed to enjoy the collaboration. No complaints about the superior audio-visual quality of the webcast.