The Strad Issue: January 2017
Description: Magnificent playing from Repin in James MacMillan's 2010 concerto
Musicians: Vadim Repin (violin) BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Donald Runnicles
Composer: MacMillan
Catalogue number: ONYX 4157

With its mysterious German chanting, Shostakovich-like sarcasm and nods to seemingly everyone from Bernstein to Berio, James MacMillan’s 2010 Violin Concerto is a bit of an enigma, but a fascinating, hugely compelling one – as if there’s a story being told in a language we can’t quite understand.

And it’s hard to imagine a more thrilling, moving account of it than this, from its dedicatee Vadim Repin and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Donald Runnicles – all performers with long-standing relationships with MacMillan’s music. Repin summons just the right sense of manic energy and deranged enthusiasm in the dancing opening movement but can switch to serene, otherworldly spirituality in an instant. He has a fine feeling for Scottish folk, never far away from the gossamer, singing slow movement, and he duets wittily with leader Laura Samuel in the fantastical finale, as unsettled as it is unsettling. But, technically dazzling though Repin’s performance is, it’s far more than that: he plays from very much within the music, embodying its narrative – and excesses – in playing of enormous expressive suppleness. As the concerto reaches its sonorous conclusion, it’s the kind of recording that you want to listen to all over again to check you heard things right.

MacMillan’s Fourth Symphony (2015) is more sober, but is delivered with no less colour and conviction. The disc is a magnificent, moving achievement all round, captured in crisp, pristine recorded sound.

David Kettle