‘I find political demonstrations strangely comical’ - Premiere of the Month: Scotland Unite

MacMillan pc Marc Marnie

An all-Scottish team joins together for a light-hearted quintet

As part of its ten-year anniversary edition, the Haddo Arts Festival will be celebrating all things Scottish on 14 October. A commission by acclaimed Scottish composer James MacMillan, We Are Collective for piano quintet will be performed by fellow Scots the Maxwell Quartet and pianist Alasdair Beatson. The one-movement work includes fragments of traditional Scottish music. ‘It grew out of an initial sketch for a part song that I had abandoned,’ MacMillan says. ‘Some of the vocal material survived in instrumental garb. It can go off in more directions than if it were just vocal.’ A classical, binary structure of exposition and development consequently evolved, with other classical devices such an integrated fugue.

‘Merging strings and piano is a question of both aural and sonic balance,’ MacMillan continues. ‘I’ve kept them quite separate. The strings begin with a fanfare-like figure, followed quickly by a boisterous passage for solo piano.’ The instruments then combine for the chant’s declamatory five-note motif: B flat, C, B flat, D flat, E flat. ‘It becomes an ideé fixe, ripe for development.’ MacMillan adds that the quintet, while influenced by politics, is not a political piece. ‘Maybe I’m odd, but I’ve always found political demonstrations strangely comical,’ he says. ‘It has a tongue-in-cheek flavour throughout.’…

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