Music of Stuart Macrae, The Hub

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The Independent Culture

"I have no religious or political ideas," writes the 25-year-old Stuart MacRae. Since he was discovered by James MacMillan, who bristles with ideas of this kind, MacRae is clearly an independent spirit.

In this concert of his music, played by the Britten Sinfonia under MacMillan, he seemed to have developed, at the very least, a personal bag of tricks. These were heard in the première of Joindre, a work for wind quintet, commissioned by the Festival: the pointillism of short, staccato notes like pinpricks; flurries of virtuosity that writhe and tangle into counterpoint; misty, fragrant chords intoned in slow succession. Although he describes it as a "compendium of techniques", it comes over as pure intuition ­ the work of somebody who composes by ear (a good method, incidentally).

MacRae's music doesn't sound much like MacMillan, or indeed like the other composers who have formed him ­ Simon Bainbridge and Robert Saxton. His stylistic fingerprints are already coalescing into an atmospheric style, twinkling with piano and glockenspiel, often slow and still. He seems wide-eyed and almost childlike ­ not qualities we often associate with young men. His music is modest, but delectable, precisely imagined and stress-free.