From The Herald:
Hebrides Ensemble/RSAMD Sinfonietta
MICHAEL TUMELTY - January 23 2006
LATER this week, RSAMD students will join the seasoned professionals of Scottish Opera's orchestra in an academy opera production at the Theatre Royal. On Friday night, in a kind of pre-echo of this collaboration, a group of students, clearly among the academy's elite players, sat down with the peerless musicians of the Hebrides Ensemble in a remarkable coupling that resulted in some electrifying playing throughout an imaginatively-programmed event.The concert exploded into action with the premiere of Burlesque Sherbert, a new work by RSAMD composer Alastair Clarkson, and a piece with a darker undertone than its zany title might suggest.The music, for a mixed group of keyboards, winds and strings, could have been a metaphor for contemporary life: high-speed activity, experience as sound bites, and disjointed shifts in moods that were as abrupt as cross-cutting. At one point, piano and harpsichord engaged in a slightly demented duet which could have been pregnant with mischief (a right couple of wee Pucks). Then Clarkson whipped the rug out from under the feet of the music, revealing a more vulnerable underbelly, one whose slow, serious music suggested another metaphor: after the party, the reckoning. An impressive piece, scorchingly played by the Hebrides and the Sinfonietta, and conducted by William Conway with a cool head and a keen eye for detail.
Thereafter, the heart stopped in a beautiful, tender and rapt performance of Mahler's Kindertodenlieder, to which academy mezzo Alexandra Cassidy brought a lustrous tone with real contralto quality in Edward Harper's wondrously economical and telling arrangement of the heartbreaking cycle.With Ligeti's buzzing, rustling, scurrying, high-velocity Chamber Concerto as its breathtaking conclusion, this was a concert where the lines of demarcation between students and professionals were truly blurred.