MUSIC / Bass, the final frontier: Raymond Monelle reviews the SCO in Edinburgh

According to Francis Collinson, the 'Scotch snap' is 'the very lifeblood of Scottish rhythm'. Unfortunately, when it is used by Scottish composers, it sounds childish, suggesting the world of tourist Scottishism, the world of haggis, tartan and bagpipes.

It takes an Englishman to use it to good effect, apparently. Peter Maxwell Davies's new Double Bass Concerto has plenty of Scotch snaps. On one occasion in the first movement, two horns even recall Berlioz's version of 'Scots Wha Hae' in his Rob Roy Overture. On top of this, the Concerto is a cantabile piece, full of long melodies with simple accompaniments, using gapped scales and pentatonic tags that bring to mind a misty background of Highland loch. Near the end there is a short cadenza in jig tempo.

None of this sounds at all absurd; on the contrary, there seem to be a number of intriguing dialogues in progress, between the traditional role of the double bass and its potential for lyricism, between the hilarious satire of Davies's famous Orkney Wedding and the quiet seriousness of his Strathclyde Concertos (of which this is the seventh), and even between the Davies of today, august, assured, romantic, and his grisly former self.

The work was premiered last November; Duncan McTier was giving the second performance at the Queen's Hall. The soloist should have been John Steer, principal bassist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but Steer has not fully recovered from a hand injury. Touchingly, Davies has worked in a duet for the two basses, soloist and intended soloist. McTier's extraordinary facility in harmonics - they are so close on the bass that you can play elaborate tunes - is exploited in the slow movement, which has the monster instrument fluting away on top of the whole ensemble.

Judith Weir's Isti Mirant Stella began with a high, glistening string chord. Penetrating this luminous cloud there came the stamp of heavily grounded chords, snatches of vagrant woodwind and a trace of march rhythm. Gestures both slow and quick bubbled upward, as though the eyes of a great company were turning, one by one, up towards the sky.

The title is a bit of bad Latin from the Bayeux Tapestry, inscribed on the scene of Halley's Comet, which appeared just before the Norman Conquest. Harold and his henchmen gaze up at the stylised object, somewhat like a Christmas decoration.

Weir is the gentlest and most exquisite kind of post-modernist, striking a pose somewhere between childlikeness and ridicule. The sound world is part interplanetary, part oversweet. It sounds as though the men are too stupid to understand the terrible omen; and there are hints, of dogs and pigeons and other farmyard personalities. The joke is certainly on the English; this was an evening of the most refined Scottish wit.

The orchestra played with the warmth and flow it manages regularly. Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and Haydn's 104th Symphony had plenty of energy and bonhommie, the little flute cadenzas in the Symphony causing no hindrance, but blossoming in the cracks of strongly-bound masonry.

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence