Edinburgh International music review: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ken Walton.
The Scottish premiere of James MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No 2 featured its dedicatee Colin Currie and the RSNO, under Edward Gardner.
It’s 23 years since he wrote his first percussion concerto, Veni, Veni Emmanuel. While there are noticeable similarities – mainly MacMillan’s exotic, quixotic and theatrical scoring for the battery of percussion – this is a work reflecting the composer’s current musical style and taste.
For all its seismic qualities – a strident three-chord motif acting as a structural signpost, the breathless moto perpetuo opening, and the belligerent interplay between Currie (and two “shadowing” orchestral percussionists) and the orchestra – there is an underlying composure that comes to the fore in the elusive murmurings of the reflective slow section and the inexorable drive to the final chorale emerging from the bowels of the orchestra.
Then there’s that touch of the enigmatic, MacMillan slipping in a muffled quote from the old Flodden lament, “Flowers of the Forest”. Exciting piece; glittering performance.
The programme also featured Sibelius’s epic Kullervo symphony, Gardner successfully consolidating its glacial harshness and flowing, narrative sweep. The men of the Edinburgh Festival and RSNO choruses were a powerful factor in conveying its quirky allure, along with soloists Anna Larsson and Jukka Rasilainen.
Published in The Scotsman on 17 August 2015
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