7 - 27 November 2005
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The Herald
28 November 2005

BBC SSO, Music Hall, Aberdeen

ALMOST 750 souls braved Aberdeen's bitterest night of the winter on Thursday to hear the Scottish premiere, by Evelyn Glennie and the BBC SSO, of Sally Beamish's new percussion concerto, an impressive turnout for a tough programme and an attendance, moreover, that in Scotland would have been matched only in Orkney, where there is no fear of the new or the unfamiliar.

In fact, what the Aberdeen audience actually heard on Thursday, in this headline concert of the sound festival of contemporary music, was rather newer than they suspected. Beamish's concerto for Glennie, subtitled Trance o' Nicht, is a three-movement pictorial piece describing the passage out of the long black night of an Arctic winter. A spellbinding and vivid evocation of a chill, wintry landscape, the concerto is built largely on the marimba, sensitively played by Glennie, with none of her familiar theatrics, just the precision-tooled music of Beamish.

The piece, which has been critically savaged down south, was originally amplified, and includes texts which were pre-recorded and treated. On Thursday, in a revised presentation, the amplification was jettisoned and Glennie delivered the texts live, integrated into her playing.

The new version worked extremely well, with Beamish's masterly scoring conjuring some of the best winter music in the book, from the keening lament of a solo cello to the icy shiver from a brushed tam-tam, and the underlying thud of a beat which surged with the throb of a rhythm suggesting the thrust of driving rock music.

In and around all this, Glennie wove her marimba solos and delivered the Doric poems with expressive mastery and an unexpected degree of theatrical intensity.

Atmospherically-written, and conducted neatly by Jurjen Hempel, the concerto was preceded by Stravinsky's Danses Concertantes and followed by John Woolrich's effective Stravinskian reworking for Glennie of three of Scarlatti's sonatas.

Sponsored by Shell UK and Wood Group.



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