CLASSICAL THE SCOTTISH
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Thu 26 Feb; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Feb
What is it about the cello in Scotland just now? Towards the end of last year there was a new concerto from Peter Nelson, then in January the premiere of Haflidi Hallgrimsson’s concerto for the same instrument. Now it is the turn of lnverness- born Stuart MacRae, whose Hamartia receives its first performances from the Scottish Ensemble and soloist Li-Wei Qin in their February High Flyers tour. One of the UK’s most exciting young composing talents, Inverness born MacRae, still only 27, has already had a major focus on his work at the Edinburgh
Cellist Li-Wei takes the lead
International Festival and the 2001 BBC Proms in London staged the premiere of his violin concerto with Tamsin Little as soloist. The wunderkind honours also include the appointment of Composer-in- Association with the BBC $80 in 1999. ‘The cello concerto’s title is taken from the Greek word for “tragic flaw”, in the sense of an imperfection of body or character in the hero of a Greek tragedy,’ explains MacRae. ‘lnhabiting the same mind or body as the heroic characteristics which drive and allow the hero’s brave deeds is some weakness or flaw which precipitates his downfall.’ Taking this one stage further is the implicit assumption that everyone, regardless of how many wonderfully heroic deeds they might succeed in, will experience their ultimate downfall eventually. The piece uses two main types of material, the ensemble being primarily chordal, with the cello taking a more expressive, lyrical role. Cellist Li-Wei, a BBC New Generation Artist, is no stranger to the Scottish Ensemble, as they performed with him in his home city of Shanghai in 2002. ‘He is an extraordinarily charismatic musician and our performance with him in China was one of the highlights of 2002,’ says the ensemble’s seneral manager, Heather Duncan. “We are delighted to be making music with him again and this time for our Scottish audiences.’ His performance of the MacRae commission is set in the context of a programme which includes an ensemble commission dating from 1982, Kenneth Leighton’s Fantasy Octet in homage to Australian Percy Grainger, whose own Folk-Song Collection provides a tuneful opener. (Carol Main)
TOMASZ STANKO QUARTET
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 27 Feb
Tomasz Stanko only made his
long-delayed debut in Scotland in 1999. when he brought his Litania
project to the Glasgow Jazz Festival. Stanko now visits the other end of the M8, leading the quartet that is featured on his latest disc. Suspended Night (ECM), featuring his trademark trumpet alongside three excellent young Polish musicians.
Stanko is regarded as one of the key players in the development of a European jazz aesthetic that evolved in a distinctive fashion from the American model, but which retained both roots and connections with it. He played with Polish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda in the 603 (he died in 1969 — Litania was a
tribute to him), and acknowledges the pianist's influence in helping shape his own musical vision. ‘Komeda was a big personality — he was such a strong force. His music was so original, and it always gave me plenty of space for self-expression. He showed us
many new directions. and he showed me how simplicity is vital, how to play the essential.’
The trumpeter was associated with the free jazz scene at some stages of his career. and still likes to introduce elements of freedom into the quartet. For the most part. thOugh_ his playing these days reveals a more spacious. lyrical and melodic approach. centred on his spare. plangent trumpet work. He shared with Komeda a passion for the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
‘Always I liked the tradition and the roots. and so do my band now. | always liked the Miles- Coltrane thing, with the music in scales — this is pretty important to me. Komeda was very into the modal jazz system of Miles and Coltrane as well. but he built from this material his own language. a European form. He had his own style, but it was just natural.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)
Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Fri 27-Sun 29 Feb
Talking to yourself may be fun. but it'll drive you Crazy in the end. Just ask the people behind Dialogues, Edinburgh's annual three-day festival of ‘new music and digital media' that this year relocates its overload of glitch. hiss. burble. scrape‘n'saw to the Bongo Club's more chilled environs after drifting between spaces since 1999. During that time, more than 20 compositions. combining state-of—art technology and more traditional fare. have been premiered. It's not. however, been an easy ride.
‘In previous years it's often been easier finding people to put on in Glasgow,‘ according to composer Martin Parker who, with fellow musician Jordan Samuel Fleming, curates Dialogues. ‘Venues are expensive. and aren't always ideal to mix up music with other artforms the way we want to.’
While mourning the lack of an all- purpose arts centre that might allow Edinburgh to make connections on the same scale as Glasgow’s lnstal or Le Weekend in Stirling, such a mix'n'match approach has previously paid dividends. Parker recalls programming classical gassers Mr McFall's Chamber, whose ready-made audience were enticed to purchase full festival passes.
This year's Dialogues serves up a trio of self-contained spectacles. Thursday’s ‘Audio Perversion' is a cabaret club Happening headlined by free improv trio TriangleHead and some after-hours glamour from the team behind the Silencio nights. On Friday. ‘Skin' utilises an octophonic sound system, live electronics and 17th century stringed instrument the viol da gamba for a quartet of new works by Parker, Fleming and others. To close. Saturday afternoon's ‘Video Hijack' buses in a host of Glasgow-based video artists and filmmakers for screenings of new work and live sound installations.
‘ldeally for the future we'd like Dialogues to be bigger,‘ Parker says. ‘But what we really want is our own space.‘ (Neil Cooper)
Acts of perversion
19 Feb—4 Mar 2004 THE LIST 49