Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Masterworks

“Let’s put this in context. James MacMillan’s Tryst, from 1989, was his breakthrough piece. The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, from the following year, usually collects that accolade, which is true in an international sense. But Tryst is the work where it all happened.

And in the SCO’s rigorous analysis and performance of the work in its Masterworks series on Monday night in Edinburgh, the core of Tryst was laid bare in an astounding analysis of the work by Paul Rissmann, with the SCO conducted by James Lowe, demonstrating and exemplifying its elements.

Absolutely no stone was left unturned in this comprehensive deconstruction of the piece, which, structure by structure, cell by cell and motive by motive, took the music apart and revealed its core, explaining the function, purpose and links of every element of the piece, from its woodwind wails to its trumpet fanfares, its block chords, its pugnacious, acerbic rhythms, its reductive passages, its collisions and the stark juxtapositions and superimpositions, now familiar and quintessential elements in the MacMillan style book, but so startling 20 years ago.

Beginning with the William Soutar poem, and MacMillan’s seminal setting of it; following it through the seedbed violin study After the Tryst (with a flavour of the piece from SCO leader Chris George) and through to the final work itself, outstandingly played by the SCO with big Jim Lowe in magisterial form, this was premier league music education and top drawer performance in indivisible alliance.

As for Paul Rissmann, I knew he was good – but this good? This was a tour de force of intellectual, musical and educational navigation. Masterworks indeed, in more ways than one. A nomination for an award from someone, please.”

Michael Tumelty, The Herald