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'Almost Rhapsodic': Midori on James MacMillan's 'After the Tryst'

Violinist Midori returns to Carnegie Hall on March 23—during the second half of JapanNYC—with a program of music by living composers that highlights both the vibrant diversity of contemporary composition and Midori's stellar skills.

Midori has written notes for four of the pieces that she and pianist Charles Abramovic will perform that night. Today, she reveals the "almost rhapsodic" nature of Scottish composer James MacMillan's 1988 work, After the Tryst.

James MacMillan's compositional output reflects his interest in his Scottish origins and its folk culture, as well as his traditional religious beliefs. Much of his oeuvre makes reference to these elements, and After the Tryst is no exception.

In 1984, inspired by The Tryst, William Soutar's account of an intensely passionate yet expiring love, MacMillan set the poem to music in the style of an old Scottish ballad. A few years later, the composer recreated the folk song's melody in two classical compositions: the violin/piano fragment After the Tryst in 1988 and, the following year, a larger orchestral work Tryst.

After the Tryst is almost rhapsodic in character, accentuated by arpeggiated chords on the piano. The alternations between dream state and near-reality are made clear by the use of sforzando: strong, sudden accents on notes played by the violin. Also notable is the juxtaposition of contrapuntal lines and homophonic chords. In the former, big leaps come in between the notes, often with strong articulation. This is contrasted by notes that are connected by glissandos, or slides, to increase the stretched feeling. Less than three minutes in length, the piece feels like an afterthought; at the conclusion, the music fades as it disappears into the distance.

James MacMillan is perhaps best known for his orchestral composition The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, which was premiered at the BBC Proms in 1990. Since then, he has garnered an international reputation for writing profound yet approachable music reflecting the influence of Scottish themes and culture as well as drawing inspiration from Catholicism and liturgical music.

© 2008 by Midori, OFFICE GOTO Co. Ltd.

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