JOHN MCLEOD (b.1934): Percussion Concerto, Out of the Silence, The Shostakovich Connection, Hebridean Dances.
Catalogue Number: 07U057
Description: An original composer who has forged his own path, McLeod writes music with a certain craggy, Northern quality and a taste for the dramatic, in an idiom that is as unafraid of frank tonality as it is of freely modernistic devices, especially those inherited from one of his idols and 'mentors in absentia', Lutosławski (the other is Shostakovich). This impressive orchestral disc demonstrates this very well, in music of strong personality and expressive power, spanning four decades. The most recent work is Out of the Silence (2015), a tribute to Nielsen for the 150th birth anniversary, and the earliest is The Shostakovich Connection (1974). Both are very recognisably from the same pen, and both represent, not so much a collision as a vigorous, dynamic interplay between the strong personalities of the 20th-century masters, both in stylistic borrowings and overt, extended quotations, and McLeod's eclectic, harmonically freer idiom (as heard in the ensemble pieces on 06Q078). The two are effortlessly blended - until, for example, the first real climax of Out of the Silence bursts in, borrowed directly from Nielsen 4. The beautiful, long-breathed theme from the slow movement of Shostakovich 5 forms the basis of variations in Connection; but the austere 12-note motif from the opening of the 12th quartet is also used as a thematic element, forming a kind of continuum of Russian Romanticism to modernism (and the piece, inevitably, concludes with a triumphant statement of D-S-C-H). The Concerto is both a stunning showpiece and a cogent, ingeniously wrought structure in which the soloist's rôle becomes progressively more virtuosic and a growing palette of percussion timbres are added to the part. The work resembles a somewhat traditional concerto, with a good deal of tonality, and a five-movement structure in which an extended nocturne is surrounded by two energetic, varied and complex scherzi, including a certain amount of aleatoric improvisation; the whole is bracketed by an impressive prelude and postlude with fanfare-like gestures. The folk dance arrangements are lighter, with an affectionately humorous touch and many ingenious touches of orchestration. Evelyn Glennie (percussion), Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Holly Mathieson, John McLeod.