James MacMillan's Third Piano Concerto, subtitled The Mysteries of Light, which received its UK premiere performances on Friday and Saturday at the Usher Hall and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, is a dazzling, immediately accessible and instantly recognisable masterpiece.
I've heard most, though not all, of the music in MacMillan's vast output in the last 24 years. No single piece, in my experience, so comprehensively demonstrates the composer's mastery of his technique and stylistic idiom.
At the first performance on Friday, I thought: I absolutely get this. I recognised the snippet of plainchant that forms the main theme of the work. On Saturday, in a public chat before the show, I asked him to sing it (twice). He obliged, and, hopefully, those present got the link, and the hook.
It is a stunning piece, glittering and gleaming, chock-full of thematic integration, glorious filigree piano writing, imposingly-bronzed brass chorales, wildly-infectious dance rhythms, and all of it unified by that tiny plainchant refrain, reiterated ad infinitum until it is not just the idée fixe of the concerto, it is its heartbeat.
As I said to anyone who would listen at the weekend, it's a great piece which should be snapped up globally. I was absolutely blown away by the performance of Superman pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, conductor Peter Oundjian and an RSNO that gave it nothing less than a full-blown, full-on treatment from first bar to last.
Beside it, Oundjian's treatment of Britten's Simple Symphony seemed a bit laboured and heavy-footed, though his full-screen vision of Holst's huge Planets Suite was panoramic in its breadth of intepretation.