CONTEMPORARY SCOTTISH MUSIC FEATURE
greater willingness by composers to expose themselves to what MacMillan terms the ‘vernacular forms of music‘. like rock and jazz. but especially to Scotland‘s traditional musical voice — folk music. Much has been made of MacMillan‘s siphoning of the nation‘s folk heritage. however subtle it may be, simply because. surprisingly. this is a relatively recent development. Scottish classical music in the 50s and 60s was too hung up on lapping up the European avant-garde — a movement which was certainly distinctive. but which MacMillan dismisses as ‘experiments for experiment‘s sake‘ and which exercised a detrimental inﬂuence in Scotland. This rediscovered pride in national musical heritage is more a revolution in attitude than style. spearheaded by MacMillan and others like Eddie Maguire. Bill Sweeney and Judith Weir. who remain musically diverse. but are united in purpose.
‘It‘s something to do with a self-conscious need for Scottish composers to re-assert their identity through music.‘ explains
MacMillan. ‘and a constant search to find musical roots as well as other roots. Culturally we‘ve been dispossessed. politically we‘ve been dispossessed. so in a sense we‘re doing a construction job on our own past and that‘s necessary. Paradoxically
‘We’ve had these two body-blows overthe last tour orlive hundred years that made it very ditticulttor classical musicto be nurtured in Scotland.’
it‘s the young writer who has his eye on the past but it‘s not a reactionary thing. You‘re not being nostalgic: you‘re attempting to find a grounding. I think that is an entirely laudable and natural thing to do, to know what your reservoir of shared experiences are so that you can address with confidence the rest ofthe world because you‘re not some floating cosmopolitan.‘
Smells like nationalist spirit? MacMillan won‘t deny it. but he‘s far more passionate about accessibility. widening the net of classical music. playing the mild evangelist
to the potential schools audience. He does concede the congenital dangers of nationalistic ‘navel-gazing’, but points to the classical composer‘s voracious consumption of all types of music internationally as artistic ballast.
‘You‘re a kind of cultural monster in a way.‘ he says. ‘You go through culture just gobbling up things and it all goes into a melting pot and is completely absorbed and entangled in your own work and that‘s why I enjoy being the kind ofmusician I am.‘
From Rome to Home ( I 7th—I8th century), (International Festival) Queen's Hall, 225 5756, 23 Aug, 3pm, £4—£I3.
Th istles. Kisses and C rescen dos (mid 18th century ), (International Festival) Usher Hall, 225 5756. 29 Aug, 8pm. £4—f13. Scotus Germanicus (early to mid I 9th Century ), (International Festival) Queen 's Hall. 225 5756. 2 Sept, 7.30pm, £4—£I3. The Scottish Virtuoso ( I 9th—20th century), (International Festival) Usher Hall, 225
5 75 o, 5 Sept, 8pm, £8—£22.
CONTEMPORARY COMPOSERS IN SCOTLAND
James MacMillan‘s populist image I may be bringing street-cred and popularity to contemporary music. but he represents just the tip of the compositional iceberg in Scotland. Peter Maxwell Davies has long been a key player in spreading the gospel of contemporary sounds. but there are many other exciting composers here. in what is fast becoming a highly fertile atmosphere for producing new and exciting compositions.
‘3 ‘ if . I Nigel Osborne was appointed Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh in 1990. and is now writing some of the most imaginative and innovative music around. His most recent opera. Terrible Mouth. about the life ofthe painter Goya. broke operatic conventions and pushed the form into vital new. futuristic realms. Osborne‘s new operatic realisation ofone of the first oratorios ever written — Emilio di Cavalieri‘s ‘La Rappresentazione dell‘ Anima e del Corpo‘ (‘The Representation of the Soul and Body') — will be performed along with his controversial 1985 opera Hell’s Angels in Munster. Germany in the spring. 1993 premieres include an oboe concerto for Nicholas Daniels and the City of London Chamber Orchestra. and Hommage a Panufnik for the SCO.
I John McLeod is the only native Scot
in this by no means definitive selection. His percussion work for Evelyn Glennie. The Song of Dionysius. has notched up 60 performances to date. His chamber work Fetes (Ia/antes has been revised for an Aberdeen concert in September: and in October The Passage of the Divine Bird and The Song of Icarus will be performed at the Royal Academy in London. McLeod takes to the podium in London next February to conduct his piano concerto. with Murray McLaughlin as the soloist. He is also working on a song-cycle. Windows to Eternity. for mezzo-soprano Felicity Palmer and orchestra. The work will be based on specially commissioned Russian poems. and takes meditation on icons as its theme.
I Sally Beamish e career as a composer following the birth ofhcr first child. which gave rise to her desire to work from home. Previously a professional violinist. she has become one of the fastest-growing talents in Scotland. Beamish is also a member of the newly formed Hebrides Ensemble. which champions new home-grown music. including her own. Her first symphony. the result of her move from smaller chamber compositions to large-scale orchestral works. will be performed by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra in 1993. Other
mbarked on a new
commissions include a BBC SSO violin concerto for Anthony Marwood and an oboe concerto for Douglas Boyd and the Premiere
I Eddic Maguire is the flautist with the Whistlebinkies and is known in particular for the successful way in which he incorporates elements of traditional Scottish folk music in his compositions. His new ballet Peter Pan was premiered by Scottish Ballet in 1989 and he has been chosen as the featured composer in the Park Lane Young Musicians series in January 1993. He is currently working on a collaborative venture to take place during the Tall Ships Maritime Festival in Newcastle
I Lyell Cresswell is a New Zealander who has brought a breath ofthe South Pacific to Scotland. His work (.‘anzone. for the unusual combination oforgan and trombone. was recently premiered at the Paisley Organ Festival. Cresswell‘s first CD featured A Modern Ecstasy and his virtuoso ‘cello concerto will be followed shortly by a second disc. which will include Salm. based on
the Gaelic psalms ‘Speak for us. great Sea‘. and ‘O!‘ — the letter that starts a thousand hymns. Current commissions include a chamber work for the RSAMD and another
I Haltlidi Hallgrimsson hails from Iceland. but has been based in Scotland since 1977. His works are performed in many countries. including Iceland and Norway. The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra are touring Poemi and will also perform his violin concerto later this year. The Hebrides Ensemble are due to premiere Intarsia for wind quintet in December. and next year Tapestry will perform Syrpa. a sequence of pieces for soprano. clarinet and piano. Hallgrimsson is currently performances check The List's music working on his Symphony No I — so I
name to show that he intends to write more — for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.
I Edward Harper is about to embark on the score for his chamber opera The Spire. based on William Golding‘s novel. having received the author‘s approval for his libretto. Commissioned by ECAT for performances in 1995. the 50-minute opera includes a part for electronic tape, which will contain various strange cacophonies, from workmen chiselling stone to distorted choral sounds. A colleague of Osborne‘s at Edinburgh University, he is also producing works for the Scottish Chamber Choir and the Meadows Orchestra.
I John Bevan Baker operates from his Highland outpost. and has been steadily amassing musical gems for years. His Pictish-inspired work Fidach — commissioned by Ross and Cromarty District Council — was premiered last year by the SCO and earlier this year the Goldberg Ensemble played his Ages ofMan at Holyrood Palace; but by and large Bevan‘s works go unheard beyond the Black Isle, more‘s the pity. The prospect of an opera commission or
two in the future should raise the
I profile ofthis gifted composer.
To catch some of these li ve
listings. (Susan Nickalls)
The List 21 — 27 August 199213