CLASSICAL Mr Emmet Takes A Walk
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Fri 23 Jun; Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Sun 2 Jul.
’This will be my last music-theatre work,’ says Sir Peter Maxwell Davies of his new piece, Mr Emmet Takes A Walk. The English-born but long-time Orkney resident composer is shifting his compositional priorities towards chamber music. But, much as riches are anticipated in that direction, for now Mr Emmet. . . promises to be a certain success. A three-way commission shared among the Manchester ensemble Psappha, Muziektheater Transparent from Belgium and Orkney's St Magnus Festival, the piece is being premiered in Kirkwall before touring to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
En route to Orkney, Psappha Director Tim Williams describes the piece as ’fantastic — and I’m not just saying that because we part-commissioned it.’ Casting aside any inclination towards scientific research, he explains, ’My usual gauge in judging is my mum and dad. They know nothing about music, but they came to the final rehearsal and they loved it.’
The story of the piece, which is set to a libretto by David Pountney, is of Mr Emmet, an archetypal businessman, complete with briefcase and umbrella, going after the most vital transaction of his life. ’It has a very fast-moving plot which everyone can relate to,’ says Williams. ‘The contract Mr Emmet is after is actually with death, so it’s rather a black comedy.’
Written for three singers and ten instrumentalists, it is only the character of Mr Emmet, sung by a baritone, who remains as himself throughout. The bass and soprano roles move from piano teacher, engineer to waiter and seductress, mother to chanteuse respectively. ’The music is very accessible,’ says Williams, ‘such as a Piaf style song or an advertising jingle. There
'My usual gauge in judging what I'm doing is my mum and dad. They know nothing about music, but they came to the final rehearsal and they loved it’
are little things there that people can easily latch on to. It’s not like the older Maxwell Davies.’ However, as Mr Emmet. . . is only a hour in length, it lends itself perfectly for pairing with the composer’s much earlier music-theatre piece, Eight Songs For A Mad King. Dating from the 19605, it was pioneering in its day and this major new piece, although almost 40 years later, promises to be a natural successor.
’Other things are interesting too,’ explains Williams. ’For instance, there is a grand piano that plays itself. Sometimes Mr Emmet plays along, sometimes he gets up, leaves it and it keeps on playing.’ The piano’s music is Maxwell Davies’ own, although the whole work is based on fragments of music by four composers: Bach, Schumann, Gabrieli and Mozart. All four are heard in the introduction and everything thereafter is derived from them. 'At the end,’ says Williams, ’a piece of Schumann’s second symphony starts as Mr Emmet is about to reach his death. It’s quite a dark piece, but it’s Max at his best.’ (Carol Main)
A host of national treasures on display at Scotland's Voice
Atholl ~ which IS great. I grew up With pipe bands, I was an army brat, my dad was in the army and we moved a lot, but always there was the sound of the bagpipe.‘
Gordon Patullo and Willie Simpson are there representing all the Vigour of the rural fiddle-and-accordion traditions, and the new generation of instrumental Wizards is there too: gUitarist Tony lvlclvtanus is one of Aileen Carr’s accompanists as she launches a new album of song, and Orkney’s celebrated Wrigley Sisters tear up the rule book on fiddle and piano/gunar. But song remains at the
Edinburgh: Pleasance Complex, Fri 30 Jun—Sun 2 Jul.
The times they are a-changing in the Edinburgh folk scene, The capital’s annual Folk Festival first split in two, became Shoots and Roots, collapsed, and is now dead. While the autopsy continues, and various factions point the finger, read runes, or form lobby groups, a small group of performers has gone ahead and organised a modestly-budgeted weekend festival that celebrates Scotland's Voice in music and, crucially, song.
As well as the workshops, children’s
44 THE “ST 22 Jun 6 Jul 2000
events, sessions, an open mic cabaret and poetry, five concerts showcase the richness of Scotland's singing traditions. The incomparable Flora McNeil is recognised world-Wide for her Gaelic song, and Gordeanna McCulloc'h is one of the great Scots ballad singers. But as one of the organisers TMSA (Traditional Music: .ind Song Association) national organiser Elspeth CoWIe ' points out, Scotland's mice also comes out of the end of a chanter. ’We wanted to be inclusive, and bring in musicians that usually wouldn’t get a hearing,’ she explains, ’so we're opening With a pipe band concert, With solo piping, by one of the great Scottish banch Vale of
core of a festival which Elspeth hopes ’wrll become an annual event, but not fixed to a certain date, or even a place. It could move to different parts of Scotland and reflect the diversity that's still in Our c0untry,’
And if you want proof of that diversity, hear the cosmic: distance between Flora Mcheil’s exquisitely shaped traditional Barra songs and St Andrew (Andy Pelci's words from the Dundee pavey, He’ll be there With his astonishing lyrical reflexes, surreal humour and sophisticated mu5ic. They’re both national treasures. (Norman Chalmers)
I See Folk listings for details of all shows.
The Rachmaninov Trio
Glasgow: Royal Concert Hall, Sun 25 Jun.
As someone once said, art isn’t easy. As someone else once said, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. One man who has held onto his goal with the tenacity of a Moscow Winter, is Russian Violinist Lev Atlas. ArriVing in Scotland for the first time in 1989, Atlas was initially one f0urth of the successful Rostov String Quartet. Unfortunately, two of the members liked it so much they deeded to stay, hooking up With the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Two Violinists short of a quartet, Atlas returned home. ’I went back to Russia, and subsequently emigrated to the States,’ he explains. ’But we always wanted to reunite because we had a good career ahead of us and we’d won awards. So I came back to Scotland two years later and we started all over again.’
Lady luck, however, was far from smiling. No sooner had the Quartet re-grouped when the untimely death of the first violinist knocked them for six. ’You can’t replace a member of a string quartet,’ says Atlas. ’We’d spent fifteen years getting to that level, so we just decided to call it quits.’ The curtain may have come down on the Quartet, but Atlas and cellist Sasha Volpov refused to give up. New Yorker Philip Silver added piano into the mix, and during 1994’s Mayfest, The Rachmaninov Trio was born. ’Sasha and I graduated from the Rachmaninov State ConservatOire in Russia,’ explains Atlas of their chosen name. ’So it’s a sentimental link.’
Setback number three came in the form of an unscrupulous agent who'd messed up Valpov’s paperwork. ’He was a real crook,’ says Atlas. ’Sasha was Without a permit, and Immigration refused to let him work for five years. But we are very stubborn people. His paperwork was sorted out and we started again.’
With their troubles hopefully behind them, the trio are looking forward to their performance at the Royal Concert Hall, followed by dates in London and the US before returning home to Glasgow where Atlas also runs the RtiSSian Cultural Centre and Cafe Cossachok. Looks like the winter of discontent is finally over. (Kelly Apter)
A product of persistence: the Rachmaninov Trio