MACMILLAN; MAXWELL DAVIES Piano Trios
After their splendid Mendelssohn recording (11/14), the Gould Trio turn to a very different programme. The MacMillan works are strongly contrasted in character; despite its modest title, the Fourteen Little Pictures (1997) is ambitious, predominantly sombre and elegiac in mood. The pictures merge into one another, with a number of cross-references, giving the work a strong, consistent trajectory. The trio don’t hold back from projecting its more extreme, violent gestures, yet are able, too, to illuminate the score’s subtler, delicate moments. MacMillan’s Second Trio is more playful and lively, and not without its grotesque moments, especially in the distorted references to various popular musical styles, yet imaginatively coloured and clearly structured. Sally Beamish’s Piobaireachd is an essay in writing a modern version of a pibroch, using the typical variation techniques employed by Scottish pipers. The theme has a calm, wistful beauty, with the variations gradually gaining in liveliness and energy.
A Voyage to Fair Isle commemorates a visit by Maxwell Davies to that tiny island in July 2002, when its 70 inhabitants mounted a music festival. The music powerfully evokes the feeling of loneliness in this most remote part of the UK, but also the islanders’ strong sense of community. The sudden appearance of a Scottish fiddler (Lucy Gould) comes as quite a jolt; but, whereas earlier in his career Maxwell Davies might have used stylistic surprises with satirical intent, here the folk music is skilfully integrated into the landscape. Throughout the programme, the Gould Trio impress by their commitment, expertise and idiomatic understanding.