Ursa Minor – Chamber Music: Ixion; I am Prometheus etc
Joshua Ellicott (tenor), Marcus Farnsworth (baritone); Hebrides Ensemble
Delphian DCD 34258 76:46 mins
This beautifully performed composer portrait from the Hebrides Ensemble captures Stuart MacRae at his most searching. Whether inspired by the tiniest lichen or loftiest constellation, or by human frailty couched in myth, a fascination with scale and perspective permeates the musical fabric – and, in the vocal works, the textual one. I am Prometheus and Parable (2018 and 2013, persuasively sung by Joshua Ellicott and Marcus Farnsworth respectively) explore complex character flaws and their far-reaching consequences.
Ixion (2013) continues the theme in instrumental pictures rather than narrative, but all three works share a keen dramatic sense – and a richly imaginative scoring which extends throughout, embracing tonality and microtones, swirling dissonance and static repose. Tol-Pedn (1999) and cladonia bellidiflora (2014 revised 2020) view the natural world with edgy wonder, while Lento in memoriam Peter Maxwell Davies (2016) and fthinoporinos (2001) pay direct and indirect tribute to musical forbears. Brief and poignant, Dark Liquidand Diversion (The room behind the room behind the room) are spontaneous responses to the lockdown nocturnally explored in the haunting Ursa Minor (2020).