One corner of the repertoire that tends to receive less attention from contemporary music festivals is devotional choral music.
Aberdeen's St Machar's Cathedral was jam-packed for the official world premiere of Crucifixus, the latest work by Paul Mealor. NYOS Futures, the contemporary music group of the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland along with the National Youth Choir of Scotland were on stupendous form conducted by Christopher Bell in a lustrous performance of a work that imbues traditional melodic and harmonic language with new life.
Much of the music in the six-part work was sweetly tender and glassy smooth. High soaring strings or solo violin blended with piano, glockenspiel and shimmering chime tree. The choral singing ranged from gentle whispers to thunderous power or even tumult in the fifth movement when challenged by fierce torrents of percussion. The voice of Christ on the cross was sung with moving dramatic import by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams. In the finale, echoes of earlier movements led into double fortissimo alleluias from the choir before dissolving sweetly once again into silence.
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Two further world premiers debuted over the weekend, both involving NYOS Futures. On Friday in The Lemon Tree world renowned harpsichordist Elisabeth Chojnacka gave a sizzling performance of Stephen Montague's Phrygian Ferment, a propulsive post minimalist work for amplified harpsichord, strings and percussion – one of this year's most dazzling Sound events.
In Aberdeen Art Gallery on Saturday, Close to Shore, by Oliver Searle featured virtuoso flautist Richard Craig on giant contrabass flute backed by NYOS strings – its wide ranging instrumental imaginings were as thrilling to see as to hear.