north east scotland's festival of new music

press reviews


Written by Alan Cooper


The audience consensus after Thursday's Lunchbreak Concert presented in association with the Sound Festival was that "the modern pieces were remarkably appealing". In any case, the four contemporary works in the programme were given a delicious sugar coating by two of Frank Bridge's attractive miniatures for violin and piano. The official programme began and ended with these decidedly seductive works. It is good these days to find this composer's reputation earning a deservedly more prominent place in the general repertoire. The piece with which Madeleine Mitchell and Nigel Clayton concluded the official programme, Bridge's Morceau Caractéristique had been lost for about one hundred years and Madeleine Mitchell showed us that she was playing from a photocopy of the recently rediscovered manuscript. It was a delightful showpiece with an attractive central double-stopped passage expertly played by Mitchell. Mélodie was the short piece which opened the concert. Originally scored for cello, as the excellent programme note informed us, it boasted "shades of Fauré".

The first contemporary piece in the concert was a setting for violin and piano of Michael Nyman's Shakespearian song Full Fathom Five from the film Prospero's Books. Strangely enough I had occasion to mention it in yesterday's review of the New Music Ensembles concert so it was great to hear it in this new incarnation. The violin had a singing opening with the piano carrying the more overtly minimalist material. Later, the violin takes this idea up while the piano gets to sing instead.

Kiss on Wood was the first of two pieces which the duo chose from the repertoire of James MacMillan. The dramatic opening led to a series of almost romantic gestures on the violin, the sort of sounds that happen in the bravura moments of romantic concerti before the violin sang the Good Friday Versicle Ecce Lignum Crucis. MacMillan manages to infuse the original melodic material with a Scottish folk-like flavouring which gave it more of a heartfelt impact but the drama of the whole piece was underlined by pregnant pauses in the music and by the slowly fading ending for piano.

The second of the MacMillan pieces was a gift from the composer to Madeleine Mitchell and is based on music from his opera Inés de Castro. Echoes of the kind of rocking motif that Berlioz used on viola in The March of the Pilgrims in Harold in Italy along with a beautiful sequence of double stopping played perfectly in tune by Madeleine Mitchell added to the seductiveness of this music before the brutally thunderous conclusion on the piano.

Madeleine Mitchell explained that the Taw-Raw is a sort of Burmese fiddle. It was the title of a splendidly atmospheric piece by Nigel Osborne describing the Burmese jungle. Virtuoso avant-garde techniques imitated the sounds of the jungle including the buzz of insects and the songs of birds.

I have referred to the "official" programme because the enthusiastic audience response did bring forth an encore: a Jazz Waltz by Howard Blake which came to an abrupt, almost comical ending.

  • published on 28 October 2010
  • written by Alan Cooper

Reproduced with permission of the author.

reviewed event
  Date Day Time Location Event Details
28Thu12.45 pmAberdeenMadeleine Mitchell, violin and Nigel Clayton, piano