Out of the Silence – John McLeod

December 17, 2014 in featured, guest blog, John McLeod by mwhiteside

John McLeodComposer John McLeod talks about his latest commission for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, ‘Out of the Silence’ – a homage to Carl Nielsen whose 150th anniversary is celebrated in 2015.

When Roy McEwan, got in touch with me early in 2013 to ask if I would like to write a new orchestral work as a tribute to either Sibelius or Nielsen, both of whose 150th anniversaries would fall in 2015, I was intrigued and delighted. I’m always in awe of Sibelius’s works which I adore, but I had no hesitation in choosing Carl Nielsen as the subject for my tribute. His musical language and maverick ideas have always appealed to me. Also the more deeply I probed into Nielsen, the more I became aware of how much the state of silence crops up.

Most of us in our daily lives strive for it but hardly ever experience it – except probably, and this fascinated me, in musical performance. The awe inspiring silence and atmosphere just seconds before a piece begins is extraordinary, and the more people involved in this the more unique is the experience.

So ‘Out of the Silence’ starts in silenceleading the way to an imaginary conversation between me and Nielsen – quite a formidable undertaking when one thinks about it! My ideas started to develop the more I pursued this direction and, as the work took shape, they were often, quite naturally, overpowered and trounced by ripostes (albeit in different orchestrations and different guises) from two works – the Symphony No.4 (The Inextinguishable) and the Clarinet Concerto. The whole piece revolves around these sources until the conversation comes to an end and we reach again a prolonged silence at the conclusion of the piece.

John McLeod’s ‘Out of the Silence’ will be performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Joseph Swensen in Perth Concert Hall (January 22nd), Glasgow City Halls (January 23rd) and Edinburgh Queen’s Hall (January 24th) with the composer in conversation at each venue at 6.30 p.m. The other works on the programme are Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto (soloist Maximiliano Martin) and Sibelius’s 4th Symphony.