The latest collaboration between Aberdeen University Music and the sound Festival involved performers from Kirkwall Grammar School, while all the music in Sunday's concert had Cornish connections. The title Extremities thus referred to the far ends of Britain.
Composers Graham Fitkin and Chris Cadwur James both hail from Cornwall, while two earlier pieces, Malcolm Arnold's Cornish Dances Op. 91 and Tintagel by Arnold Bax, have obvious Cornish inspiration. Chris James conducted the student symphony orchestra, which gave an impressively fine performance of Tintagel.
On this occasion, Graham Fitkin's Slow for String Quartet and Two Keyboards made use of the full string orchestra conducted by Pete Stollery while Fitkin and Ruth Wall played the keyboards providing the backbone of the music. From there, the strings journeyed outward and Rachel Lind's solo
cello provided particularly beguiling detours. Minimalist hardly seems a fitting description of Fitkin's Ring Cycle, receiving its world premiere on Sunday. The audience was restricted to the gallery since the performers took up the entire lower floor. Two brass bands, four woodwind groups, eight accordions, six soprano saxophones, five drum-kit players, seven other percussionists and a set of 14 temple bells were in the line-up. It seemed like a recipe for chaos but Fitkin marshalled his forces like a most talented general. All these diverse groups seemed eager to join in this spectacular event.
Chris Cadwur James's piece Furv (Cornish for "shape") reminded me of John Tavener's most luminous music. A gentle background of strings was set against an eloquent violin and cello duo played by Nathalie Vanballenberghe and Rachel Lind. I think I preferred it to the more spectacular piece.
Copyright Alan Cooper - published in The Herald, Glasgow (Newsquest Media Group)