Classical review: Plug - The Return of Volkov, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

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YOU expect to find prototypes in a lab: some unlikely to make it to production; others possessing enough inspiration to mark them out as truly promising.

None of the student compositions, presented last night by young musicians from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MusicLab as part of the RCS’s invigorating Plug Festival, fell into the former category.

Two, in particular, stood out as exceptional. Lewis Murphy’s Frag was one – a vigorous and rigorous working of a simple melodic idea, lit bright by perceptive scoring and resolute confidence haunted by ever-looming dark undertones.

But the real humdinger was Jay Capperauld’s Hypnic Impact, a superbly crafted work for soprano sax and heavy-laden wind and brass, with the composer himself as soloist.

The title refers to a muscular spasm that prevents deep and meaningful sleep. What we heard, though, was a cocktail of mellifluous creamy sax solo, delicate harmonic wind clusters, explosive outbursts, and above all a maturity that moulded these components into a cohesive, dramatic entity.

Both works were conducted by Ilan Volkov, whose calm authority translated difficult music into performances of effortless integrity.

The rest of the programme included Dimitros Skyllas’ intriguing, ritualistic Grief Gestures, the sultry, timeless warmth of Kristaps Cukurs’ Seed, and the mercurial harmonic language of Daniel Drefer’s Accidents Happen. An impressive student showcase.

Rating; ****