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Stuart MacRae

Violin Concerto
Stirling Choruses
Two Scenes from the Death of Count Ugolino

Christian Tetzlaff & BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Ilan Volkov etc

NMC NMCD115 [TT: 68'26]

To refresh a cliché, I have been eagerly awaiting Stuart MacRae's wholly original violin concerto ever since being captivated by its Proms premiere, caught on a car journey in 2001.

He calls it an anti-Concerto, allowing himself lyrical writing only in the final, fourth movement. It is aerated music, everything clear and precisely imagined for clear audibility, "oscillating between stability and instability". An equivalent, perhaps, is Ligeti's eccentric violin concerto, not greatly loved as yet; MacRae's deserves an enduring concert life and this recording should help it to consolidate its position.

(2003) is an 18 minutes display of the potential of a six-part mixed ensemble, again with the satisfying precision and clarity that marks the concerto. And in Stirling Choruses (1999) MacRae had a lyrical solo trumpet line which developed into the long solo lines of the concerto.

I really could not swallow the scenes from Dante's Inferno (2004); in an attempt to "bridge the gap between our horror at today's awful depravity and the deep sympathy we must feel - - " etc, he has gone somewhat over the top - but some may find this month's terrorism threats and international disputes warrant such an extreme artistic manifesto?

The reprinted notes are rather scrappy and I have had to search the publisher's website for dates of compositions. MacRae has been prolific but his music had otherwise not often impinged on my awareness, but q.v. his Interact on the London Sinfonietta's own label.

This NMC portrait CD is an excellent place to start.

MacRae's first opera The Assassin Tree has its world premiere at Edinburgh this month before further performances at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House, London.

© Peter Grahame Woolf