The National: Profile: Sound Festival 2016

Four specially commissioned works are to be performed in tribute to the late Orkney-based composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to launch this year’s soundfestival.

Homage will be paid to Maxwell Davies (above left) who died in March of leukaemia aged 81 before he could complete a piano sonata commissioned for the launch concert at Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Hall this evening.

Now Maxwell Davies’s complete piano works will be performed along with world premières of the four short new commissions celebrating the composer by Alasdair Nicolson, Rolf Hind, Gemma McGregor and Sally Beamish.

The festival is also paying tribute to Pierre Boulez, another giant of the classical music scene who sadly died this year.

A day dedicated to Boulez will celebrate his work through discussions with Aberdeen-based expert Dr Edward Campbell and pianist Peter O’Hagan. There will be screenings of films on Boulez and performances of a selection of his work including Anthèmes II and Dialogue de l’Ombre Double.

“Pierre Boulez had a seminal impact on the direction of music in the latter part of the 20th century, and he influenced generations of new composers,” said sound director Fiona Robertson.


sound has also commissioned a new work John de Simone called The F Scale. This will be performed alongside Louis Andriessen’s De Staat by Red Note, I Solisti del Vento from Belgium and Song Circus from Norway. After the concert in Scotland it will tour to Belgium and The Netherlands.

soundfestival 2016 will also see the Scottish premiere of Graham Fitkin’s Disco, a 1970s disco-inspired “song cycle” for soprano backed by three counter tenors. sound has always been one of the major commissioners of new music in Scotland and many of the premieres of the new works have been made possible through the soundbyte scheme, a funding initiative modelled on Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s sound investment programme.

“We are delighted that among this year’s premieres will be a number of works which we have commissioned through the soundbyte scheme including John de Simone’s The F Scale, a new work for string quartet and harp by Graham Fitkin and a new piece for clarsach by Sally Beamish for The Aberdeen Harp Book which will be made available to amateur clarsach players in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire,” said Robertson.


The acclaimed actor, Simon Callow, known to millions as Gareth in Four Weddings and Funeral, is to also appear at the 2016 soundfestival. Callow will perform Der Tribun (The Tribune or the Mother of all Speeches), a caricature of totalitarianism by the leading 20th century composer Mauricio Kagel, on October 29 at ACT Aberdeen.

At the time of its composition in 1978, the Argentinian-born composer was living in Cologne with a Soviet-backed regime in power across the border in a still divided Germany. Meanwhile in South America his native country was in the hands of Videla, Pinochet ruled Chile with a rod of iron and there were military dictatorships also in Boliva, Peru, Brazil and Paraguay.

Devised initially as a radio play the piece features a political orator, marching sounds, and loudspeakers. As the work progresses it becomes clear that the orator is rehearsing a speech, starting and stopping pre-recorded applause as he hones his tone and vocabulary. The piece calls for a performer who can seduce the audience with his comic presentation rendering even more hard-hitting the realisation that the objective of the orator is absolute power and all that entails.

“We are delighted that Simon Callow will be joining us for the 2016 soundfestival”, said Robertson. “Kagel’s renowned piece is a searing indictment of totalitarianism which draws on his own experience of both South America and Europe. It speaks as powerfully to an audience today as it did in the late 1970s when it was written.”


Der Tribun will be performed in a concert that also features the seminal De Staat (The Republic) by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and the world premiere of a sound Red Note Ensemble co-commission from the festival’s first composer in residence, John De Simone, who studied in Andriessen’s celebrated composition department at Den Haag. The concert brings together three leading international ensembles, Red Note from Scotland, I Solisti del Vento from Belgium and Song Circus from Norway. Other highlights include Gaelic singer songwriter Alasdair Whyte and electronic composer Ross Whyte who will present an audiovisual ambient suite of rarely heard traditional Gaelic songs and original compositions. This event also features the official launch of Whyte’s debut album.

Grains of Sound is an art project by Maja Zeco, exploring Banchory through sound walks. The exhibition and related performance will display a range of ambient sound recordings, excerpts from interviews, along with visual materials including photographs, maps and drawings.

Running until November 6, the 12th year of the festival boasts a host of events, some free and some designed specially for families, an exhibition at the Aberdeen Science Centre and regular late-night sessions.

Events take place across the north-east of Scotland in venues that include lighthouses, bothies, museums and churches as well as in concert halls and arts centres.

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Published: 20 October 2016, The National

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