Cumnock Tryst

Promenade Concert/Festival Finale

Dumfries House/St John’s Church, Cumnock

Keith Bruce

four stars

PIANIST Simon Smith’s decision to substitute the music of Valentin Silvestrov for the Opus 10 Etudes by Frederic Chopin may have dismayed a few ticket-buyers for the annual Sunday afternoon chamber music-scored tour of Dumfries House at Cumnock Tryst, but those with open and receptive ears heard some fascinating newer music. The Ukrainian film-score composer’s wistful, atmospheric style might have been easier to enjoy with the view of the gardens behind the pianist on a less dreich day, but its gentle mode was in telling contrast to the solo excursion by Maximiliano Martin that followed in the Entrance Hall. The clarinettist’s performance of the solo passage from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time preceded the vexed and virtuosic psychological journey of Franco Donatoni’s Clair, played with theatrical commitment by Martin.

He then joined string colleagues from Mr McFall’s Chamber for Krzysztof Penderecki’s subverting of classical models in his Clarinet Quartet of 1993 and the first of the day’s premieres, Gillian Walker’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh-inspired White Room, which was more concerned with exploration of the sonic possibilities of the combination of instruments.

With all due respect to the Tryst Festival Chorus, which has developed into a fine choir under the directorship of Eamonn Dougan and Andrew McTaggart, their performance of three of Handel’s Coronation Anthems, opening with the exuberance of Zadok the Priest, was overshadowed by the new works in the programme of the closing choral concert at the Church of St John the Evangelist.

These surprise 60th birthday presents for festival founder and director Sir James MacMillan were composed by his contemporary Sally Beamish, his teacher John Casken, his biographer Phillip Cooke, and Jay Capperauld, the young local composer he has nurtured at the Tryst.

Threaded through a programme that also featured the excellent organ playing of David Gerrard, they were sung by an octet of young voices, Novantae Singers, directed by McTaggart, with the Beamish the most personal of them, and the Casken, setting Gerard Manley Hopkins, and particularly the Cooke surely destined to take their place in contemporary Christian worship.

Capperauld’s very clever reworking of Robert Burns’s Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, entitled Dreamer, was the ace card though, teaming the young professionals with the chorus in captivating deployment of all the musicians.