JAMES MACMILLAN (b.1959): Piano Trio No. 2, 14 Little Pictures, PETER MAXWELL DAVIES (b.1934): Piano Trio - A Voyage to Fair Isle, SALLY BEAMISH (b.1956): Piobaireachd.
Catalogue Number: 03Q077
Label: Champs Hill
Description: MacMillan's trio, commissioned by the present ensemble, is a succinct, single movement in clearly defined sections. Opening in declamatory mood, it transitions to a modal theme and a drone accompaniment, suggesting bagpipes. An unexpectedly jazzy boisterous scherzo follows, then an ironic, Shostakovich-like slow waltz, a shadowy, serious slow section, and a resurgence of the energetic material from earlier, now with a hectic urgency, before the 'bagpipe' music and a final scampering coda round out a most appealing work. The fourteen short Pictures - a much earlier work, from 1997 - traverse a wider range of emotional territory, in a generally less obviously tonal idiom and more serious mood. The piece abounds in extreme contrasts, with episodes of somber lyricism interrupted by violent outbursts, or frantic activity suddenly supplanted by glacial stillness. Originally conceived as separate pieces, the work was unified into a continuous dramatic arc by extending thematic threads and cross-references between individual movements. The Maxwell Davies is a wonderfully evocative 'tone poem', despite the reduced forces; beginning with a plainsong that provides material throughout, and incorporating the composer's trademark originally-composed folk-style melodies, the work sets the scene of a remote and desolate island in the North Sea, then in livelier episodes, pays tribute to the rugged and spirited community there. Beamish's work, as the title suggests, is the most overtly Scottish work here, mimicking the variation form of the classical Scots bagpipe tradition with its increasing ornamentation of the theme, but extended into modern tonalities that make full use of the contrapuntal capabilities of the ensemble. Gould Piano Trio.