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Stuart MacRae

Publisher: Novello & Co

Interact (2003)
Interact was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with the generous support of the following, through its Commissioning Circle: Robert Clark and Susan Costello Penny Jonas Michael and Patricia McLaren-Turner Sheila Colvin Anthony Atkinson
Novello & Co Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Stuart MacRae Interact (2003)
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.

Nicholas Reyland

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    London Sinfonietta
    John Wallace, Trumpet
    HK Gruber
    London Sinfonietta Label:
  • 10 MAY 2003
    Interact London Premiere
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
    Royal Scotish Academy Brass
    John Wallace, trumpet; HK Gruber, conductor
  • 09 MAY 2003
    Interact World Premiere
    Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow
    London Sinfonietta
    John Wallace, trumpet

    Other Dates:
    10 May - Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

"The first movement gave us sparing pointillism and poinet precision - in the manner of Stockhausen. Irreverently, but not disrespectfully, I heard drips from water taps - irregular and at different pitches. They caught one unawares sonically - often alertly and wittily. The second movement was sober and sonorous - a cool-headed rhapsody that gave lyricism the occasional distant nod."
Kenneth Carter, The Classical Source,30/05/2003
The MacRae concerto, Interact, was impressively concentrated, thoughtful and cool, as MacRae always is, with Wallace playing a fast competitive game against the Sinfonietta in the first movement, and in the slow, often lyrical, second growing more and more "inward".
David Murray, The Financial Times,16/05/2003
Like MacRae’s Violin Concerto, this two-movement piece is sparely orchestrated and it marks another shift away from his densely layered, large orchestral works. It has the composer’s fingerprint volcanic rumblings and painterly use of colour and effects...It is a brave and confident work, written by an artist who has thrown down the gauntlet to himself and his audience and come up with something arresting, witty and rather mysterious. Wallace played it to the hilt, especially the itchy opening Presto with its leaping, pirouetting and gurgling solo line, which trades jokes and insults with the brass players in the ensemble.
James Allen, The Daily Telegraph,13/05/2003
Two years go the violin concerto by this fiery young talent made a big impression at the Proms; this trumpet concerto [Interact] cut a smaller swath, though not when Wallace locked in, jousting with the Sinfonietta’s new principal trumpeter, Andrew Crowly.
Geoff Brown, The Times,13/05/2003
Stuart MacRae’s new trumpet concerto, Interact, performed by John Wallace with the Sinfonietta conducted by HK Gruber, reinvents this antiphony for the present day: at the climax of the first movement, the ensemble is surrounded by four brass players who create a corona of musical calls. For all the energy of the first movement, and the virtuosity of the solo part, the music progresses like a sequence of tableaux, each more unpredictable than the last. The second, slower movement, is even more elusive, and MacRae organises his sounds as if they were blocks of physical material, from a static ground of string chords to an eruptive, jazzy duo for solo trumpet and piano. And yet the piece is somehow more than the sum of its parts, as each fragment of material creates a chain of relationships with the music around it: a study in musical and emotional interaction.
Tom Service, The Guardian,12/05/2003
"...possessed its own personality and integrity."
Conrad Wilson, The Herald (Glasgow),12/05/2003
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