Martin Suckling began his tenure as composer in association with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra last week with the world premiere of a newly composed work, Six Speechless Songs, celebrating the orchestra’s 40th birthday. But the piece also celebrates another birthday, that of the composer’s daughter who was born whilst he was writing the piece. ‘Such events,’ writes Suckling, ‘demand a celebration, but rather than composing a single movement of great energy and excitement, I decided to write a sequence of short lyrical moments that would allow for a variety of celebratory gestures within a multi-movement piece: 'many, seeming one'.’ The result is a piece of extraordinary diversity: a joyous outpouring of unison semi-quavers with echoes of a whirling ceilidh, a lonely trumpet melody offering a mysterious glimpse of a far-away shore, resounding chimes, playful gestures and more!
'buoyant and shimmering'
‘The 32-year-old Glaswegian writes with an astonishingly clear hand. He cuts to the point, illuminates contrast like a chiaroscuro painting and doesn't hide behind clutter. These six fleeting movements were buoyant and shimmering. Among many striking moments were squalling strings, daringly sparse stretches and a yearning trumpet call that glowed like a beacon through the haar. The orchestra played it all with brilliantly lithe attack.’
The Guardian (Kate Molleson), 7 February 2014
'Ravellian in their innocence and intimacy’
‘Martin Suckling’s specially commissioned Six Speechless Songs was a subtly crafted birthday ode, comprising six miniatures in delicate, understated vein – almost Ravellian in their innocence and intimacy.’
Financial Times (Andrew Clark), 9 February 2014
'it drew you deep inside its glistening textures'
‘...six exquisite miniatures, each a self-contained world of developing ideas that made wonderfully inventive use of the SCO’s laser-precision playing. From its vivid, rhythmic opening, all unison melodies and Messiaen-like birdsong, to the icy mystery of the third movement, Suckling created a work of rich, almost decadent lyricism that proved an ideal showcase for the orchestra’s finely-wrought playing under Ticciati… it drew you deep inside its glistening textures, and that felt magical.’
The Scotsman (David Kettle), 8 February 2014
'the most delicate of sounds'
‘Suckling is a classical violinist and used to play in a ceilidh band and these influences can be heard in many passages of this composition which starts with a vibrant contrapuntal sound incorporating strings and horns (brass features prominently in many of the songs) then as the songs progress we are at times taken on a musical journey as strings gently interweave in the most delicate of sounds, reminiscent of dawn tentatively breaking, and the piece concludes on a beautiful, tranquil note.’
Edinburgh Guide (Barbara Bryan), 7 February 2014
‘I'm sure we'll hear it again’
‘In Martin Suckling's new commission, Six Speechless Songs, I was captivated again by this young man's orchestrational mastery, and drawn into his personal background to the composition, as a new father. I heard a beguiling, nocturnal sound world, full of stillness and restlessness from the cot, and the alluring sense of a small presence with the rocking, lullaby strain in the music. There's more to it, and I'm sure we'll hear it again.’
The Herald (Michael Tumelty), 10 February 2014