RSNO Principal Guest Conductor appointment

Elim Chan impresses musicians after this year's debut and return visit

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) welcomes Hong Kong-born Elim Chan as its next Principal Guest Conductor, succeeding Thomas Søndergård from 2018.

The Principal Guest Conductor is a member of the RSNO Artistic Team, led by the Music Director, and requires the incumbent to feature in two or more weeks of the Orchestra's Season.

Chan conducted the Orchestra for the first time in February this year, making her Scottish debut, and so impressed the musicians that it led to an immediate request for her to return less than two weeks later. Following her second appearance the RSNO requested a more formal relationship with Chan.

The critics were united in their praise following Chan's return visit, the Scotsman noting that "...the energy between the two parties is highly charged..." and The Herald observed that, "... [Chan] had all the players on their mettle."

She follows Thomas Søndergård, who was announced as the next Music Director of the RSNO in May, and former Principal Guest Conductors Marin Alsop, Gary Bertini and Paavo Berglund.

Chan, the first female winner of the London Symphony Orchestra's Donatella Flick Conducting Competition and current Dudamel Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, returned to Scotland in February to replace RSNO Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi, who had to withdraw from his 80th birthday concerts with the Orchestra for personal reasons. Chan had made her Scottish debut with the RSNO two weeks previously, to audiences in Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh, conducting Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture and Symphony No4 Italian as well as Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin and accompanying RSNO Principal Bass Ana Cordova as soloist in Serge Koussevitzsky's Concerto for Double Bass.

RSNO Principal Guest Conductor Designate Elim Chan: "The first moment I joined the RSNO on-stage I already felt that something unique and gratifying was about to happen. I sensed a magical connection between the musicians and me that allowed us to make music in such a natural way, and I am grateful for everyone's openness and kindness to me. I am thrilled to be a part of the RSNO Artistic Team and to explore together what's ahead!"

RSNO Chief Executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan: "On behalf of the Orchestra I'd like to welcome Elim to the RSNO family. Her debut performance was of such chemistry that the musicians immediately called for her re-engagement. This led to an on-stage relationship that can be accurately described as inspiring and full of energy, as well as powerfully evident to the audiences. I'm excited by what this partnership will deliver for our audiences in Scotland and further afield."

Elim Chan's first Season as Principal Guest Conductor, the RSNO's 2018:19 Season, will be announced in March 2018. For more information visit www.rsno.org.uk.

Young composer wins international prize

Notes from Scotland 2017 Winner Alexander Papp 

Alexander Papp wins Scottish Orchestra's national competition for composers aged 12-18 years

Sixteen year old Alexander Papp has won Scotland's national orchestra's Notes From Scotland, its annual composition competition specifically for 12-18 year olds. 

The theme for the third Notes From Scotland was taken from Scotland's outstanding landmarks; Culzean Castle, Ayrshire; Glen Coe, The Highlands; Hill House, Argyll and Bute; Newhailes, Edinburgh, and House of Dun, Angus. 

In partnership with the The National Trust for Scotland, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's (RSNO) Notes From Scotland invited young composers to write a two-minute work for an instrumental trio, quartet or quintet. Following the closing date for entries in May four works were chosen to be performed by an RSNO ensemble at the RSNO Centre, Glasgow last Saturday afternoon. A panel of judges including Scottish composers Jennifer Martin and Oliver Searle selected Alexander Papp's work Progeny, inspired by the landscape of Glen Coe, as the winning entry. Alexander receives an iPad Pro with music software packages included, as well as VIP access to future RSNO concerts.

Panelist and RSNO Artistic Director for Learning and Engagement William Chandler:" "The year's Notes from Scotland composition competition was the largest and most competitive one ever. Pieces were submitted from as far away as New York City and from composers as  young as twelve years old.  I don't envy the judges' task in choosing a winner this year but am thrilled that Progeny by Alexander Papp has been awarded the top prize. Congratulations to Alexander for a truly remarkable work and a huge thank you to all who entered."

Panelist and Composer Jennifer Martin: "The culmination of projects like Notes from Scotland are always incredibly inspiring. The four finalists have us the full range of emotional responses to the National Trust for Scotland properties which provided their inspiration. Our winner, Alexander Papp, is one to watch!"

Notes From Scotland 2017 winner Alexander Papp: "I am delighted to win this prestigious award! I never thought I would reach the final so winning it was just a dream come true! I would like to thank the RSNO for giving me this immense opportunity. I will remember it for the rest of my life."

Prior to the final concert workshops for entrants were held at each of the historic sites across Scotland (Culzean Castle; Glen Coe; Hill House; Newhailes; House of Dun) The participants were given tours of the sites before receiving an introductory guide to composing to a theme. 

Notes From Scotland 2018 will be announced later in the year but for more information visit the competition website, www.notesfromscotland.co.uk, or contact the RSNO's Learning and Engagement team on 0141 225 3557 or email engage@rsno.org.uk. 

ScotRail help Scottish Orchestra network

RSNO Violin Paul Medd and RSNO Viola and presenter of Teddy Bears' Picnic Lisa Rourke

RSNO's transport partner host musicians' performances on Scotland's main railway lines

Musicians from Scotland's national orchestra will take the train to various destinations across Scotland to perform concerts for the very young to the more mature this week and will provide fellow passengers with music along the way.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and ScotRail have enjoyed a partnership for nearly a decade, and to say thanks for being its Principal Transport Partner the RSNO musicians will disperse to four locations using the rail network to perform a concert for young children at Kennishead, a traditional dance band performance in Pitlochry featuring music from the 1920s, string duo recitals in Mallaig and Crianlarich, and two on-board performances by RSNO string members on the Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank line.

Closest to the RSNO's home in Glasgow, a chamber group and presenter Lisa Rourke will welcome early years and nursery aged children to Kennishead community organisation Positively Including Everyone (PIE), for a presentation of its critically acclaimed Teddy Bears Picnic, an interactive performance tailored especially for young children.

In the east, RSNO string players will entertain passengers on the Borders Railway Line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, the longest new domestic railway to be built in over 100 years in Scotland.

On Tuesday 6 June and Wednesday 7 June the West Highland Line between Glasgow Queen Street Station and Mallaig will have a string duo performing music with a Nordic influence, collated by RSNO Viola Katherine Wren who spent several months last year travelling around Shetland, The Faroes, Greenland and Iceland, immersing herself in the diverse but connected musical cultures.

The RSNO's Café Orchestra will perform at the Atholl Centre, Pitlochry on Wednesday 7 June from 2.30pm, providing attendees with all the means to dance to the hits of the 1920s and 30s. The musicians will also be entertaining passengers on their way from Glasgow to Pitlochry with a themed selection of music.

James Ledgerwood, the ScotRail Alliance's Head of Economic Development: "We're very fortunate to work alongside so many groups across Scotland that are so passionate, not only about their local railway, but also about the wider difference the railway can make to local communities.

"These concerts show that the benefits these groups bring don't end at the station platform."

RSNO Artistic Director for Learning and Engagement William Chandler: "Our partnership with ScotRail is incredibly valuable to us as it provides us with the means to travel the country performing to audiences in urban and rural settings. We relish the opportunity to try new things so when the opportunity to use the rail network to not only access performance opportunities but to provide platforms for performances themselves we were keen to accept. We're very much looking forward to seeing some new faces on our journeys and spreading the joy of live music".

Composers’ Hub work selected for Season premiere

RSNO Composers' Hub member Daniel Kidane

RSNO’s second composer nurturing initiative yields new piece to be premiered in November

An emerging British composer has won the chance to have one of their latest works premiered by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO).

Five UK composers were selected to benefit from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s RSNO Composers’ Hub - the second annual initiative to develop the talents of individuals in the early stages of their careers – and were subsequently asked to compose a short work for Orchestra about the subject of conflict. One work, by Guildhall School of Music and Drama doctoral student Daniel Kidane, has been chosen to receive its first public performances, at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this November, a programme presented in partnership with Poppy Scotland.

Named after the Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa, Zulu brings to life the formidable fighting spirit of the Zulu people. Clannish regiments, known as Impi, marked their bravery and militaristic prowess in battles with invaders such as the Boer Commando and the British Empire. The vigorous nature of the piece, characterised by ever-present percussion and an unwavering drive, reflects the essence of the Zulu people.

When asked to write a piece reflecting on the idea of war, Daniel wanted to highlight an epoch in world history where colonialism was rife. The European colonial conquest period was the era from the 16th century to the mid-20th century, when several European powers established colonies in Asia, Africa and the Americas. It is hard to measure the complete damage that the practice of acquiring political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically for the mother country, had on these regions – no doubt the repercussions are still being felt today.

RSNO Composers’ Hub is also an opportunity to develop a meaningful collaboration with the RSNO and the other hub members over a sustained period and to get to know the Orchestra, staff and its audience, receiving guidance from different artistic and business areas.

RSNO Composers’ Hub participant Daniel Kidane: “I’m very much looking forward to further collaborating with the RSNO and hearing my piece Zulu come to life in their 2017:18 Season. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Conductor Holly Mathieson and the energetic RSNO, who did a grand job of work-shopping five excitingly unique new pieces. Such opportunities are vital for younger composers and I'm glad that the RSNO are in their second year of this wonderful scheme.”

RSNO Executive Producer Manus Carey: “Our five composers have produced an awe-inspiring selection of works and it was a difficult decision to select one, though I’m delighted that Daniel’s composition will be performed by the Orchestra in November at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. My thanks go to all participants and RSNO Assistant Conductor Holly Mathieson who has provided such valuable support to the Composers’ Hub.”

To apply for RSNO Composers’ Hub, applicants were invited to submit a CV, one-page letter explaining why the scheme would be suitable, and two examples of their own compositions (preferably at least one for full orchestra), with scores and sound samples.

The RSNO is supporting new music with the performances of newly-commissioned and co-commissioned works including those by former Composers' Hub composer Jay Capperauld, as well as newly written works by Oliver Searle, Sally Beamish, Martin Suckling and Gerald Barry. The Season will also feature performances of other contemporary works written in recent years. For more information on RSNO concerts and events, visit www.rsno.org.uk.

Chan makes triumphant return

Conductor Elim Chan returns to the RSNO two weeks after her début

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) welcomes Hong Kong-born Elim Chan to conduct a second programme with the Orchestra, two weeks after making her Scottish début.

Elim, the first female winner of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Donatella Flick Conducting Competition and current Dudamel Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, returns to Scotland to replace RSNO Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi, who has had to withdraw for personal reasons.

Elim will be joined by Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter, who recently toured with the RSNO to Spain, and who will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No2. There is an alteration to the remaining programme, with Rachmaninov’s Symphony No2 replacing Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture in place of the composer’s Hamlet Fantasy Overture.

Elim made her Scottish début with the RSNO last week to audiences in Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh, conducting Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Symphony No4 Italian as well as Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and accompanying RSNO Principal Bass Ana Cordova as soloist in former Scottish Orchestra Principal Conductor Serge Koussevitzsky’s Concerto for Double Bass.

Conductor Elim Chan: “I am extremely honoured and delighted to be able to return to the wonderful RSNO very soon for a beautiful programme with some of my favourite music. It was such a joy making and sharing music with the RSNO musicians last week; at the end of the concerts I had one of those rare moments feeling, “It's over? But I want more!”, so I am thrilled about this second visit, and that we are going to make more music together!”

RSNO Chief Executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan: “On behalf of the Orchestra I’d like to welcome Elim back to the RSNO for her second set of concerts. At her first sitting with the Orchestra I understand she immediately gelled with the musicians and went on to perform two wonderful concerts with our Principal Bass Ana Cordova as soloist in the Koussevitzsky concerto. I believe the audiences in Edinburgh in Glasgow will be equally delighted to welcome her back to Scotland for her second engagement here.”

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony features conductor Elim Chan, pianist Ingrid Fliter and the RSNO at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Friday 17 February and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 18 February. For more information visit www.rsno.org.uk.

Sibelius Family Grant Permission to RSNO Musicians

Early Piano Quartet to be performed by RSNO Chamber Group will reveal composer’s classical tradition

A Scottish chamber group will perform a 19th century rarity from the predominantly 20th century composer Jean Sibelius this coming Sunday, after permission from the composer’s family was sought before the sheet music was released.

Sibelius and Strauss Piano Quartets at the New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall presents a chamber ensemble assembled from Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) musicians, violinists Sophie Lang and Lorna Rough, cellist Betsy Taylor and pianist Edward Cohen to air a rarely performed early work by Jean Sibelius, his Piano Quartet in D minor.

Unrecognisable when compared to his later, romantic works, the four movement quartet for two violins, cello and piano has been described as an accomplished pastiche of one of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trios. Those familiar with Sibelius’ soundscape may be surprised at the composers’ leaning towards a classical tradition at this time, this work composed when he was eighteen. Many composers had already found their voice by this age but it may surprise those familiar with his later expansive sound world to hear that he started off very much in the more contained, classical tradition.

RSNO Violin Sophie Lang: “We couldn't believe it was Sibelius when we started playing it! It sounds far more like Mozart, though there are glimpses in the harmonies of his later style. It's fascinating to see where he started, and to play off copies of the parts which we think were hand-written by him. They are full of inconsistencies, so rehearsals have been pretty pain-staking as we try and reconstruct what we believe he wanted, but that's actually made us feel closer to the composer. The parts were sent from the National Library of Finland after we had been granted permission to perform the work from the Sibelius family.”

The concert also features a performance of Richard Strauss’ early work, the substantial Piano Quartet in C minor, composed in the same year as Sibelius’ piano quartet, sixty years prior to Metamorphosen and reminiscent of the work of his idol, Johannes Brahms. The quartet will open the programme with a work by contemporary American composer Michael Daugherty, Diamond In the Rough, Daugherty’s nine-minute homage to Mozart.

Sibelius and Strauss Piano Quartets will appear at the New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, on Sunday 5 February (2.30pm). Tickets cost £12.50 and are available from the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall box office (0141 353 8000). You can book online by visiting www.rsno.org.uk.

Scottish composer fulfils promise to friend with new work

New Flute Concerto for 2017 marks 20-year friendship between composer and soloist

This week Scottish audiences will be treated to the première of a new Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, written by leading Scottish composer Martin Suckling, inspired by the obsessive characteristics of one of the UK’s leading conceptual artists’ work, and borne from a teenage promise to one of the UK’s finest flautists.

Martin, who has been described by the national media as “..probably the most important figure in Scotland’s music scene since James MacMillan.”, dedicates The White Road, a title inspired by ceramicist Edmund de Waal’s 2015 travelogue, to his long-time friend RSNO Principal Flute Katherine Bryan. Martin had promised a concerto to Katherine while they were musicians in the National Youth Orchestra, and Katherine will perform the piece as soloist at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on Friday 3 February and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 4 February.

Composer Martin Suckling: "I've known Katherine since we were teenagers and we've long wanted to work together on a flute concerto.  Katherine's glorious tone and Edmund de Waal's beautifully austere ceramic art were twin inspirations for this piece, in which solo flute melodies lead the orchestra in antiphonal exchange through a landscape of rich, gleaming microtones and strange dances."

Katherine Bryan, who has been described by one of the country’s leading music critics as having “…intellect and comprehensive musical resource, including expressivity, in endless supply…” welcomes the challenge of performing this new work written especially for her.

RSNO Principal Flute Katherine Bryan: "Martin and I have been friends for over twenty years. He knows me very well, and it had always been a hope for both of us that he would one day write something for me. The challenge of bringing any piece to life for the first time is huge, but the fact that it is written by him makes it even more exciting for me. The piece is alluring, stirring, tender, ardent... all in a 15 minute package. I cannot wait to capture people's imaginations with it."

Paired with the new concerto is Katherine’s interpretation of Ralph Vaughan-Williams’ The Lark Ascending, transcribed from violin to flute by Katherine herself. It features on her most recent album The Silver Bow (Linn Records) which was Classic FM’s Album of the Week following its launch last year. Furthermore, Katherine’s version has received full endorsement from the Vaughan Williams Society.

RSNO Principal Flute Katherine Bryan: "Transcribing this beautiful piece was a dream I had had for some time. I'd grown up listening to it and still it melts my heart with its poignancy. I hope that my transcription brings new and interesting sounds and colours to this work which is so well known and loved."

The Lark Ascending, a Sir Alexander Gibson Memorial Concert, was due to be conducted by RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian but has had to withdraw from the week’s performances for personal reasons.

RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian: “It is with enormous regret that I cannot be present for the upcoming concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow. This is a wonderful programme, including an exciting premiere by one of Scotland’s major composing talents and featuring one of our own exceptional soloists. It promises to be a memorable event.”

Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit returns to the RSNO in his place. The Lark Ascending concludes with Maurice Ravel’s pictorial symphonic vision of ancient Greece, the ballet music Daphnis et Chloé.

For tickets or more information please visit www.rsno.org.uk.

Rare performances of Double Bass Concerto

RSNO Principal performs Koussevitzsky showpiece for audiences in Musselburgh and Kirkcaldy

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s (RSNO) Principal Bassist Ana Cordova will take centre stage to perform Serge Koussevitzsky’s rarely performed Concerto for Double Bass, to audiences in Musselburgh and Kirkcaldy at the end of this month.

Infrequently utilised as a solo instrument Koussevitzsky wrote this showpiece for the bass to demonstrate his virtuosity when he was a touring bassist, before embarking on one of the world’s most successful conducting careers and becoming a fierce supporter of 20th century music. Koussevitzsky was even conductor of the then Scottish Orchestra, now RSNO, in 1923. He went on to champion and commission works from composers such as Prokofiev, Ravel, Gershwin and many more. Koussevitzsky moved to the USA in 1924 to become conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a post he held for 25 years, building the BSO’s reputation as one of America’s leading ensembles.

The Concerto for Double Bass is included in a programme that also features two works by German romantic Felix Mendelssohn, Symphony No4 Italian and the Hebrides Overture, written by the composer following a visit to the island of Staffa off the west coast of Scotland. The orchestral version of Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin opens the programme.

RSNO Principal Bassist Ana Cordova: “The Koussevitzky concerto is a fantastic Russian romantic piece. It is short but very intense, passionate and touching. I am really excited to perform this concerto and have the chance to show to the audience what a double bass can do outside of the orchestra role. I hope everyone will enjoy it as much as I will."

RSNO In Concert presents Hong Kong-born conductor Elim Chan, the first female winner of the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition, making her RSNO debut. RSNO In Concert appears at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy on Friday 27 January (Box Office: 01592 583302) and at The Brunton, Musselburgh on Saturday 28 January (Box Office: 0131 665 2240). Both concerts start at 7.30pm. For more information visit www.rsno.org.uk.