Classical review: Plug 5&6, Glasgow

The final two concerts in the RCS’s Plug festival were given over entirely to students. Early on Saturday evening the focus shone on composers and performers from the JuniorConservatoire, and a series of works that revealed, in these late school-age students, a genuine hunger for creative exploration.

Plug 5&6 - Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

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While most found comfort in derivative idioms – the soft-spun Romanticism of Magnus Pickering’s large ensemble piece Vantage Unfolding, or the soulful lyricism of Jacqueline Fergusson’s China Plates for saxophone and piano – every one of them revealed a sensitive grasp of instrumental colouring.

What followed in the senior students’ concert was understandably more sophisticated, and made all the more exciting by the tip-top presence of the RCS’s contemporary music ensemble, MusicLab. Their ability, under four student conductors, to transform the notes on paper into such vibrant living sounds, was surely the icing on the cake for the composers concerned.

Eoin Tonner directed Matthew Zurowski’s In a Crowd, a frenetic machine-like piece that opened with bags of energy, though occasionally struggled to sustain its self-generating momentum. The mood changed abruptly in Huan Li’s Toy Boy, a strikingly atmospheric work based on a true story from her oriental hometown.

And finally, Thomas Norman’s densely expressive Ochre and Red on Red, an intriguing attempt to imbed music by Sibelius into his own composition, which generated interesting structural solutions, and ended a fascinating few days of youthful creativity.