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‘the entire event was out of the box’

From Herald Scotland, Monday 18 January 2016

★★★★

FOR a full appreciation of what went on during Saturday night in the RSNO Centre, with director Peter Wiegold and Alchemy, a new-ish contemporary music ensemble drawn from within the ranks of the RSNO, I’d need some conversations and a lot more space. So we’ll do that another time. Meanwhile, a brief account of Saturday night’s rather astounding event, for which the walls of the auditorium in the RSNO Centre were both lowered and drawn-in, creating an intimate chamber music venue.

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Exemplifying the principle that less can be more, five young composers produced very short new pieces of about four minutes each. Jay Capperauld, often reviewed on this page, and a young master if ever there was one, thinks tangentially, and in his Enchantment of Vulnerability… produced, in a pointillistic style, music of great beauty, while Peter Longworth dealt pictorially with slippery things in his Winter Gusts, Lillie Harris confronted hurt and anger in her Red, with Desmond Clarke continuing the winter theme in his Snowflake piece and Cameron Graham facing up to memory in his Blasted Echoes.

In an extraordinary second half, Wiegold presided over a series of improvisations on one-minute ideas and squeezed in tiny musical tributes to Bowie and Boulez. Is there life on Mars? There was on Saturday night in the RSNO Centre, in a mind-boggling event that concluded with a near-phantasmagorical presentation of Purcell’s Cold Genius, with a prelude by Wiegold, a postlude by Wiegold, and Purcell’s song in the middle, sung extraordinarily by RSNO tuba player John Whitener. He was brilliant, I have never heard anything like it, and the entire event was out of the box.

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