The shift in style towards greater musical clarity evident in Stuart MacRae's recent Violin Concerto (premiered at the 2001 Proms) has continued in 'Interact', the young Scottish composer's new commission from the London Sinfonietta for the ensemble and trumpeter John Wallace. This shift is not simply a matter of more translucent textures, although there is certainly a less profuse layering of ideas than in some of MacRae's earlier pieces (partly to highlight the soloists' parts in these two concertante works). Just as significant, however, is an increasingly clear sign-posting of what might be heard as his music's quasi-theatrical situations, and of the expressive complexities thus revealed by MacRae's smartly structured compositions.
'Interact' also carries the Violin Concerto's interplay between soloist, ensemble and other section leaders a stage further. In addition to the trumpet's leading role, the brass players in 'Interact's' ensemble - trumpet, horn and trombone - are also prominent agents in the action, moving around the stage to take up soloing positions of their own. Such interactions are a clue to the work's title. Although the name 'Interact' was one of the last details to be added, choreographing the interactions between solo trumpet and different ensemble groups of soloists - and, more importantly, the musical materials they 'embody' - was always a goal for MacRae in this piece. Consequently, his writing for the ensemble is almost as virtuosic as the solo trumpeter's part, which was devised after discussions with Wallace, who advised MacRae to write for the ideal trumpet in his head.
There are two movements, each of about ten minutes' duration. The first, Presto, is fast and frenetic, a kind of game (almost certainly a contact sport) played out by the soloist and other members of the ensemble. A series of stratagems, bouts and counteractions is suggested, and at the movement's close, as the ensemble brass return to their chairs, there is a sense of a hard-won, but provisional, accord. The second movement, on the surface, is a complete contrast, and much slower. The composer describes is as a measured sequence of friezes, each of which presents a slightly different background to the central idea threading through its different sections. That thread, in part, is melodic, and heard in the lyrical writing for the solo trumpet, whose harmony-muted lament leads the ensemble into 'Interact's' powerfully affecting apotheosis, before the music slips away into silence.
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