Music review: The Scottish Ensemble, Perth

THIS week’s Scottish Ensemble touring programme centred on Seavaigers, a work written in 2012 by Sally Beamish, and fusing the gutsy traditional style of Shetland fiddler Chris Stout and harpist Catriona McKay with the classical strings of the Scottish Ensemble.

Jonathan Morton, newly appointed Artistic Director of the Scottish Ensemble. Picture: TSPL

The Scottish Ensemble with Christ Stout & Catriona McKay

Perth Concert Hall

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It stole the show. Inspired by the wild and unpredictable stretch of sea between Shetland and McKay’s hometown of Dundee, the creative catalyst was clearly the rugged energy of Stout and McKay’s part-improvised performance style.

Their foot-tapping presence was the dominant factor, the shifting colours of the string ensemble a tonal backdrop to the main action, whether fuelling the percussive lifeblood of the dance, or casting halos around Stout’s forlorn melodies.

New for this tour, for the Ensemble only, was a commissioned set of Scottish Variations on the tune Tulloghgorum, each variation written by a different Scottish composer – Martin Suckling, Alasdair Spratt, Stuart MacRae, Alasdair Nicolson, Anna Meredith and David Horne. The flow suffered slightly from one violinist breaking a string, but each component contribution had something interesting to say about one or other aspect of the theme – a microcosmic point in the case of Meredith’s catchy obsession with the Scots snap.

Stout and McKay’s own work – with an announcement that they were changing the title from Sunstone to Moder Dy – provided a bristling finale. But whoever thought Stout and Jonathan Morton could make Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins work, where Morton played straight and Stout played trad, was sadly mistaken. Best intentions, but it just sounded naff.

Seen on 29.04.14