By Amy Parker
From The Herald - June 28 2007
This afternoon's concert, as part of the Academy's Summerfest series, gave us the first complete performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's The Birds, a four-movement song cycle replete with evocative images of Hebridean landscapes. Kenneth Steven's words painted pictures of places rich in colour and texture, whose Arcadian contentment was disrupted only by the looming figures of gloomy ministers and grey sheets of rain.
The metaphors of flight and freedom that ran through the text, though seeming to correlate with the ornithological theme, were strangely, and effectively, at odds with the highly wrought musical textures. Lines were tightly woven and self-controlled, dissonant and sombre; characteristics that were reinforced by mezzo-soprano Jane Irwin. The final movement, especially, which used words from John Barbour, was a sparse, solemn affair that allowed us to listen to the grain of Irwin's voice. She was accompanied by students of the Academy, who for the most part gave an admirable performance - yet one couldn't help noticing their relative inexperience in the face of such demanding work.
A second ensemble gave a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No 14, arranged here for piano quintet, with soloist Alexander Kanchaveli. Again, hesitancy prohibited the full realisation of some of this music, but Kanchaveli's playing more than impressed, and the spidery melodic lines were given a depth and roundness, particularly during the andantino movement, which provided him with the opportunity to develop his expressive tone.