City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottish Ensemble Baltic Renaissance Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 12 December 2011

Scottish Ensemble
Show Details
Greyfriars Kirk
Scottish Ensemble
Kutavičius, The Gates of Jerusalem: Northern Gates; Byrd, Fantasia à 6 No 2 in G minor; Pärt, Fratres; Purcell, Dance of Furies; Tüür, Action and Illusion; Purcell, Fantasia upon One Note; Vasks, Distant Light.
Jonathan Morton (director/violin)
Running time: 

Adding music by Purcell and Byrd to works by living composers from the Baltic States produced a fascinating concert for the dozen string players of the Scottish Ensemble. They were standing in front of the altar in Greyfriars Kirk with a stand of twenty lit candles behind them and to either side.

Their bright and enthusiastic Artistic Director, Jonathan Morton, introduced the programme warning us that the first work lasted just four and a half minutes. This was from Kutavičius’ The Gates of Jerusalem based on the description of the holy city in the Book of Revelation. We heard the strings and a bass drum take it in turns to evoke the haunting, bare and often harsh landscape of Karelia, where Russia and Finland meet. Bronius Kutavičius was born in Lithuania in 1932.

We heard music by Arvo Pärt, from Estonia and born in 1935, Erkki-Sven Tüür also from Estonia and born in 1959 and Pēteris Vasks is a Latvian composer, born in 1946.

It was Vasks Violin Concerto Distant Light composed in 1997 that was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening with Jonathan Morton playing the solo part. The programme notes told us that he was born in Belgium and took up the violin when just 4. By the time he was 13 Lord Menuhin had invited him to study at his school in Surrey, and he has not looked back since.

It was Vasks intention for Distant Light to provide food for the soul. It is a particularly moving work that tests the dexterity of the violin soloist. Jonathan Morton more than achieved what was required. Indeed his colleagues were watching his solo playing with admiration. This is a work where the soloist has a free hand for a short while - an aleatoric passage. We really were treated to food for our souls and Jonathan Morton and his colleagues are to be congratulated.

Event: Sunday 11 December 2011 at 7.30pm