One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Some items
to consider


Reger Violin Sonatas
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Brahms Symphony 3
Dvorak Symphony 8
9 cello sonatas
Piano Music

Clara Schumann
piano concerto

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!

Quite splendid

Winning performances

Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc

a huge talent

A wonderful disc

Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!

Roth’s finest Mahler yet

Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Buy through MusicWeb
for £9 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button

2011 PLUG: Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland 2011 PLUG New Music Festival
Christopher DUNCAN (b.1989)
*Twine, for chamber ensemble [5:12]
Timothy MILES
Twitching, for solo clarinet [7:31]
Die Nachtblume, for soprano and piano [2:54]
*Barotrauma, for chamber ensemble [7:57]
Claire MCCUE
*Surge, for chamber ensemble [6:13]
Sojourn Aufenthalt, for soprano and piano [4:09]
Lewis MURPHY (b.1992)
Am Turme, for soprano and chamber ensemble [7:35]
Gill's Delirium, for two clarinets and percussion [8:44]
Calum Robertson (clarinet) (Miles)
Jessica Leary (soprano), Alasdair Macaskill (piano) (Shucksmith)
Fiona Wilkie (soprano), Theodoros Iosifidis (piano) (Capperauld)
Nigel Boddice, conductor (Murphy)
Fraser Langton, Calum Robertson (clarinets), James Gorman, Glynn Forrest (percussion) (Forman)
rec. 2011 PLUG Festival, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow (live recordings). DDD

Experience Classicsonline

The puff for this CD from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) states that "PLUG started off from a lack of enthusiasm for what had become the official annual contemporary music festival. We felt that the canon of what is generally accepted as contemporary music in the UK was no longer relevant to our students so we wanted to create something new." Those are the words of composer Gordon McPherson, who is also Head of Composition at the RCS - until recently the RSAMD, or Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. What could he mean by "the canon of what is generally accepted as contemporary music"? Is there really a canon? Surely all contemporary music is contemporary music, whether anyone "accepts" it or not?
More importantly, there is such a huge amount of new art music being written, of almost endless variety, it seems implausible that all of it could be "no longer relevant" to McPherson's students. In any case, the students are studying composition at the RCS, presumably, because they want to be composers, whose profession or compulsion it is to write music, whether or not it is relevant or necessary or even likeable.
It is a pity that institutions and promoters do not stick to straight facts, which in this case are these: this CD contains a selection of music from the RCS's own annual 'PLUG Festival', which since 2006 has showcased new music from the Conservatoire's students and premiered over 300 works. Let the listener take over from there!
McPherson does the RCS no favours by stating that "PLUG has grown [sic] from strength to strength and is now heralded as one of the most exciting festivals in the UK, if not wider, for new music." On the other hand, it must be said that this is not a case of hype hiding inadequacy. The various works in this programme, as well as the performances, are at worst not too bad, whilst some are really rather good.
With regard to the opening work, Glasgow-born Christopher Duncan writes that Twine "is a piece about my love for Electronica music. Scandinavian Electronica music, in particular, has influence a lot of my music." Fortunately Duncan's music is better than his ability to write good English: Twine is an attractive easy listen, broadly neo-Classical in spirit. It is upstaged, however, by American Timothy Miles's Twitching, spectacularly performed by Calum Robertson, for whom it was written: - a memorably virtuosic workout for the clarinet, trilling and jerking up and down, in and out until it literally runs out of puff.
Surge was written by another Glaswegian, Claire McCue. To her credit, the work was performed last year on BBC Radio 3's Hear and Now programme. It is a stylish, colourfully orchestrated piece, its quiet, twitchy first bars the prelude to the titular 'surge' of energy. The opening of Jason Staddon's Barotrauma is superficially quite similar for a while. The piece is named after, and is a musical abstraction of, of all things, an ear infection Staddon had. He writes that because of his illness he found the work "physically painful to listen to" - a description some listeners will doubtless still find applicable. Despite its noisiness, however - and because of it - it stands out from the rest of the disc with its own 'punk' appeal, and Staddon is very enthusiastically applauded by the audience.
There are three works for soprano in the programme. Jay Capperauld takes a text of Ludwig Rellstab's, famously set by Schubert in his Schwanengesang, D.957: 'Aufenthalt', which Capperauld has given the curiously tautological title, Sojourn Aufenthalt. His treatment of it is powerful, melodic but darkly ominous, with some frightening crashing chords towards the end from pianist Theodoros Iosifidis, and it is well sung in reasonable German by Fiona Wilkie, who has an incredibly Wagnerian voice.
Soprano Jessica Leary's German, on the other hand, is pretty shabby, which surely reflects rather badly on her tutors. In Anna Shucksmith's Die Nachtblume - most famously set (as 'Die Nacht') by Hugo Wolf in his Eichendorff-Lieder - she mispronounces almost every '-ie-' as '-ei-', turning "wie die" ('as the') into the nonsensical "wei dei" and "Liebesklagen" ('heartache') into a word meaning something like "physical complaints". Her pronunciation and enunciation are sloppy throughout, although her voice sounds as though it could yet yield a career. The piano part is more successful, Shucksmith's song very much in the lieder tradition, but with some cool jazzy riffs indicating its post-modern ambient.
Lewis Murphy's Am Turme is an adventurously Schoenbergian setting of the poem by one of Germany's most important 19th century female poets, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. Unfortunately the booklet gives only the conductor's name - not the singer's or the players'! Though the atonal idiom of the song may not be to everyone's taste, Murphy's piece is highly atmospheric and brimming with fine touches that bode well for his future.
Last but not least, Steve Forman is a well-known Los Angeles career percussionist who joined the RCS to focus on composition. His Gill's Delirium is another work about illness, "a quiet little song of someone's illusions and delusions". Forman's description of manic depression is itself painful to read, thanks to the cringe-inducing youth-parlance it is couched in, but the unusually-scored piece itself is fairly bright and upbeat, not to mention typically percussion- and rhythm-oriented.
Though these are all live recordings, sound quality is very good. Some of the tracks end with boisterous applause, but generally the audience is rather well behaved. The accompanying booklet has a couple of paragraphs of notes per item, although there is not necessarily much information in them. What there is is not always illuminating: "Timothy Miles is a composer from Nashua, New Hampshire, which is part of New England, which is in the United States"! There is nothing on any of the performers.
Overall, this is a disc that will appeal primarily to the students and teachers of the RCS, and their friends and families. On the other hand, no one interested in a career in composition or with a general interest in new music will come to any grief from acquiring it, and may well find themselves enjoying the whole programme.
One final question: with so much new music coming from the students of the RCS's Composition Department, why is this CD only fifty minutes long?
Collected reviews and contact at


































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.