This Departing Landscape**; Release; The White Road*; Piano Concerto
*Katherine Bryan (flute), Tamara Stefanovich (piano); **BBC Philharmonic; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
NMC D262 76:57 mins
Martin Suckling, born 1981 in Glasgow, here makes his NMC debut. The title track, This Departing Landscape, takes inspiration from Morton Feldman’s comment about music as a transient art form. (Feldman’s Wilde-like soundbites – ‘I found it more beneficial to experiment with fountain pens than musical ideas’ – may be found in Give My Regards to Eighth Street.) Fast-moving, fragmentary melodies and shifting ideas signify the slipperiness of sound. Pattern plays a more prominent role in Release, where semi-regular instrumental outbursts represent the often-experienced urge to make a loud noise in a reverberant space.
The two concertos are less obviously illustrative. The White Road is inspired by ceramicist Edmund de Waal’s sequences of single-glazed pots. Suckling has said that the work ‘is not a piece about porcelain, nor a musical evocation of the colour white, but it may be about obsession.’ The work was co-commissioned by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for RSNO flautist Katherine Bryan, whom the composer has known since they were teenagers in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Performing here with the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bryan is sublime, slicing through fragmented cadenzas and revealing a powerful lower range.
Another expert soloist is pianist Tamara Stefanovich, a highly accomplished 20th- and 21st-century music specialist who has a thorough grasp of his 30-minute, five-movement Piano Concerto. The choppy second movement – marked ‘implacable’ – is offset by sparse interior sections and a ghostly passacaglia.