Classical review: Plug 1 - RCS, Glasgow

Royal conservatoire. Picture: Contributed

Royal conservatoire. Picture: Contributed

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THE Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s annual Plug Festival showcases works by student composers and it opened on Wednesday with a barrage of music exemplifying the creative industry that is flourishing at the RCS.

Plug 1 - RCS, Glasgow

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There was craftsmanship: not one of the seven works showed signs of awkwardness or self-consciousness. Resident Red Note Ensemble, under the clean, efficient baton of postgraduate conducting fellow Fergus Macleod, and former student ensemble, the Astrid Quartet, ensured they were heard in the best possible light.

But it’s that flash of creative, even eccentric, individuality that makes you sit up and take notice, as in Jay Capperauld’s Unauthorised Edition, a rumbustious hijacking of 1980s hits, played with hard, physical abandon by pianist Sinae Lee. Think ABBA, Queen and the like, whose recognisable melodies appear and instantly explode in wild, exciting aberrations.

Among Red Note’s performances, Hugh Holton’s Flow was impressively unpretentious, revelling in the inspired sonorities provided by the addition of marimba to the basic clarinet and string trio ensemble. Martin Keary introduced the guitar as the defining feature to enliven the contradictory discourse of Herostratic. Michael McEneny’s attitudinal Think he’s aw That was attention-grabbing to start with, but resorted to bouts of predictability.

Among the string quartets, Thomas Butler’s Espial was a quirky eye-opener. Having pre-filmed the players in separate rooms, the composite outcome was replayed on split video screens, manipulated by fast-forward or freeze-screen to create a quixotic visual dynamic, and the odd uncontrollable laugh.

More standard quartets too, by Lucy Hollingworth and by Shona Mackay, whose Intimacy produced many compelling moments.

Seen on 30.04.14

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