Celtic Connections

Max Richter - Three Worlds

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Keith Bruce, Three Stars

WHEN he was one of the early attractions of Fergus Linehan’s new “contemporary music” strand at the Edinburgh Festival, I was a baffled by the rapturous audience his music attracted to the Playhouse. Two and a half years on, the time seemed right to revisit the acclaimed Max Richter, who has sound-tracked dance productions as well as, more obviously, cinema. The programme he brought to Celtic Connections, where he was teamed with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Robert Ziegler, looked promising: a suite of works inspired by the writing of Virginia Woolf that had its origins in a commission from choreographer Wayne MacGregor for Covent Garden.

Alas, I am still out of the Richter loop. The repetitive piano figure, with string decoration, that began Mrs Dalloway prompted only the thought, drifting in from the leftfield of bubble-gum pop, “How do you dance to this music?”. A pizzicato strings phrase with synth bass started Orlando, but there seemed little in common between the boundary-pushing novel and the sonic experience that never hinted at modernism. Hearing the voice of Woolf herself at the start of the evening was a treat, and Gillian Anderson’s taped reading of the valedictory note to Leonard – “I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer” – was heartbreaking, and Su-a Lee’s cello solo similarly affecting, but the cumulative experience seemed a long way from the bold brevity of the books.

It is not him, it’s me. I cook comfort food rather well but would never think to order it when I am out, and I like that guests enjoy a soak in the cast iron bath I went to some effort to instal at home but very rarely draw one for myself. Although the concert hall was not as full as I expected, the reception was ecstatic. A fruitful trip to the charity shop of 70s experimental music has supplied the clothes of the new emperor.