That Scotland has become fertile territory for composer-performer relationships is illustrated by this album of music written by Sweeney (born 1950) for cellist Robert Irvine.
The key work is The Poet Tells of his Fame. Based on cello sound samples taped at Glasgow University’s Electronic Music Studio, it involves a playback of pre-recorded material while the soloist performs from the score. Instead of prescribing the order in which the “live” material – simple melodies, pedal notes, cross-string arpeggios – must be played, Sweeney offers only guidelines, giving the cellist freedom to steer the acoustic performance through the electronic.
Irvine meets the challenge in a way that sharpens the music’s atmosphere and power. The Cello Sonata is both more conventional and more contrived, but Irvine and Erkki Lahesmaa make a case for the simple, psalm-like Tree o’Licht for two cellos.
Tree o’Licht: music for cello