St Magnus Festival, Various venues, Orkney

The composer Peter Maxwell Davies launched the festival in 1977, at the time of the summer solstice, when the islands are perpetually bathed in light. Though he is now the president, rather than the director, of the festival, he's a constant presencein the front row of the red sandstone cathedral, where his Martyrdom of St Magnus was premiered 28 years ago.

This year's director, Ian Ritchie, is sensitive to Max's founding principles – to keep the mix of local and international performance. There are high-profile names, but the focus is not on world premieres. In fact the only world premiere, Cross Kirk, written for a local fiddle group, took place on the island of Sanday in front of 60 locals.

The most exciting discovery of the festival came about almost by accident. Billed as the Mystery Quartet, their identity was unknown until two days before their appearance. The winners of the Maxwell Davies prize at Italy's foremost quartet competition were flown to Kirkwall for a recital including Max's A Sad Paven for these Distracted Tymes, the competition test piece.

The Pavel Haas Quartet from the Czech Republic were sensational. Together for only 10 months, their account of Beethoven's 3rd Rasumovsky quartet, from the minuscule pianissimo at the start to the thrilling, almost orgiastic Russian dance at the end, was breathtaking. Don't be surprised to see them at next year's City of London Festival, when Ritchie takes over as director.

Nearly half the final concert was devoted to a piece for a newly invented instrument, Head=Space. It was the first professional appearance for the trumpeter Clarence Adoo since he was paralysed from the neck down. Joining John Kenny on trombone, and Torbjörn Hultmark on trumpet, Adoo controlled a virtual orchestra with a sensor on his forehead, and triggered sounds by blowing into a mouthpiece. The result was an entertaining mix of jazzy riffs and ambient music.

The festival went out with a bang – a Handelian frolic from Kirkwall Town Band and the Royal Scottish Academy Brass ensemble, with fireworks from Clarence Adoo's magic machine. And everyone streamed out to witness one last, glorious, blood-red sunset.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?