Classical review: RSNO - Alchemy

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Picture: Robert Perry
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE seeds of Wednesday’s inaugural performance by Alchemy, a contemporary music ensemble drawn from players of the RSNO, were planted last February in a prototype event at Glasgow’s Tramway.

RSNO: Alchemy

Tramway, Glasgow


We saw then the results of a new personal development programme which required the players to work together as an improvisational team, ultimately creating a full-blown hour-long programme out of single page scores prepared by a number of composers. It was an impressive taster for what has now clearly evolved into a seriously ambitious and successful series-to-be.

The man in charge on Wednesday was composer and improviser Peter Wiegold, whose control over this seamless presentation – based on the prose poems of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities narrated by actress and Deacon Blue vocalist Lorraine McIntosh – was both catalysing and inspirational.

Around the texts, which effectively offer multiple reactive images of Venice, the ensemble wove charismatic sound responses, ranging from the brutish, guttural or whimsical to the atmospheric and lyrical, with enough sense of self-belief to make the score live, breathe and convince.

Shades of Messiaen harmony vied with robust American-style minimalism. The sound palate was both cohesive and expansive, a mix of strings, solo clarinet, piano, percussion and brass eliciting imaginative amplifications of template scores by John Woolrich, James MacMillan, David Fennessy, Aidan O’Rourke and Wiegold himself.

It’s a great idea to help the RSNO musicians work with each other in such a spontaneous way, . and it was great to watch the chemistry flow among them.

Seen on 10.09.14