"I'd dare to suggest that Nightfires, with its incredible seismic heaving, is among the most exciting pieces I've heard from a Scottish composer in the last 25 years; since Isobel Gowdie, in fact." Michael Tumelty, the Herald
"...a solo cello elbows its way out of shrieking trumpets and swaggering double basses to play a frenzied elegy. It’s bold orchestral writing, confident enough to use the brightest of colours and the chunkiest of rhythms. I’d like to hear more." Kate Molleson, the Guardian
"A ten-minute work packed with incessant youthful energy, it is, however, remarkable for the confidence and character of its orchestration, and a golden thread of a melody that weaves its way artfully through the surface excitement." Ken Walton, the Scotsman
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra | Ilan Volkov
City Halls Glasgow
7th April 2016
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3
Nightfires is written in one continuous movement which lasts around ten minutes. Titles are usually amongst the last decisions I make as part of my writing process, so unusually for me, I decided on Nightfires as the title for the work long before the musical material existed (even in sketch form). The work is designed to be a hard-hitting, energised concert-opener. There was little intention to write programmatic music, but more to use the title as a catalyst for the piece (I often utilise “quietly evocative” titles as a “way in” for listeners). This created a deliberately ambiguous and abstract canvas in which I have been able to draw on my own interpretation of the dark, brooding, ominous imagery conjured in my mind by Nightfires.
The work is for the most part an elongated, baleful melody which is continuously shadowed and shrouded by a highly energised, often angular, musical landscape. Shrill winds and unrelenting brass ostinatos underpin lopsided grooves and loops which eventually fall away to reveal a solo cello. Its frantic, breathless material is quickly subsumed and damaged by the return of the noisy, acrid brass and pungent, bitter strings.
The work has one brief moment of hiatus with cleansing, restrained string chords. All-too-quickly, these chords are smothered, and the work is hurled towards the climax where shrieking trumpets reprise their opening fanfares before propelling towards the work's end.