Out of the Silence by John McLeod, CD Review: The Herald

Out of the Silence – RSNO/John McLeod/Dame Evelyn Glennie.  CD review: The Herald

by Keith Bruce.


THIS is without doubt a major release in terms of contemporary Scottish orchestral music, yet there is a sense of our national orchestra playing catch-up. It is the Scottish Chamber Orchestra that will premiere McLeod’s new viola concerto, Nordic Fire, in October, and the BBC SSO that most recently featured his The Gokstad Ship in concert. The SCO also commissioned the title work here, which is conducted by RSNO’s recently-departed Assistant Conductor Holly Mathieson, and the closing Hebridean Dances, like the rest of the disc under the baton of the composer.

Nonetheless, these are all premiere recordings, immaculately recorded in the orchestra’s new Glasgow home and, the playful Dances perhaps apart, all major works. Central to the release is the Percussion Concerto premiered by Evelyn Glennie with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland thirty years ago. It is full of vigour, as much in the orchestral writing with some fine cameos for the principals, as in the virtuoso solo part. A work of dramatic contrasts, the central contemplative Nightscape (Callanish) is framed by two boisterous Scherzos, when the full panoply of tuned percussion is deployed.

The other two works are no less theatrical, not least in their overt referencing of the composers that inspired them: Carl Nielsen and Dmitri Shostakovich. With an exquisitely poised opening, Out of the Silence concludes with beautifully captured pizzicato strings and flutes, while The Shostakovich Connection – McLeod’s first orchestral work – is an inventive homage to the Fifth Symphony with a role for tenor sax.

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