Music review: Cumnock Tryst: Opening Concert, Trinity Church, Cumnock

Cumnock Tryst Opening concert
Cumnock Tryst Opening concert
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JAMES MacMillan’s Cumnock Tryst Festival has fast become a social and cultural phenomenon. Now in its sixth year, its impact on the local community has been reenergising. Every year the composer has something new to add to successive projects that integrate the Tryst with the town’s social fabric.

Cumnock Tryst: Opening Concert, Trinity Church, Cumnock ***

Before even a note was struck in this year’s opening concert, MacMillan announced yet another initiative: the imminent launch of the Cumnock Tryst Music Club, which will relive the glory days of the old Cumnock Music Club, providing year-round concert promotion, initially featuring ensembles from the RSNO, SCO, Hebrides Ensemble and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Thursday’s Festival opener featured Mr McFall’s Chamber and Alan Tavener’s vocal ensemble Cappella Nova, and had at its centre two new works by Auchinleck security guard Michael Murray, whose Guitar Concerto featured in the 2017 festival.

The Last Fantasy was inspired by Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, set to words addressing the contemporary “science-zeitgeist.” The music, instinctive and naive, lives by an impulsive succession of naturally-expressed gestures, their full impact stifled to an extent by excessive tonal containment. The theatrical narrative of Murray’s linked encore, Shade Psalm, shared the same dichotomy, as did a faithful and sincere performance.

Around that, the sultry exoticism of Glazunov’s Réverie orientale, the orgiastic irreverence of MacMillan’s Cumnock Fair, the fiery concision of Penderecki’s Three Miniatures and the rhythmic sidestepping of Bacewicz’s Piano Quintet No 1 by the McFall’s team were a virile framework, made complete by the smoochy addition of a louche Polish tango.

KEN WALTON