"... a dazzling tour de force"

Susan Nickalls, The Scotsman

Edinburgh Contemporary Music Ensemble, Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh ****     (13th January 2020) 

Since the demise of ECAT, contemporary music hasn't enjoyed the same profile in Edinburgh, so kudos to ECME for delivering a programme to excite the ear and stretch the mind in their 15th anniversary showcase with new conductor Gordon Bragg. Claire McCue's consummate double trombone concerto, In Pursuit..., with the phenomenal soloists Dávur Juul Magnussen and Simon Johnson, was a dazzling tour de force. 

Positioned at opposite ends of the stage, the trombones echoed and chased each other, their stereo sound converging, diverging and whooshing over a meaty orchestral texture...

(Susan Nickalls, The Scotsman)



Friday's second concert featured a string ensemble from the RSNO and a programme that progressed from the second of Haydn's seminal Op.20 string quartets, to the youthful genius of Mendelssohn's Octet, by way of a new work by the young Glasgow-based composer Claire McCue, whose Beauty & the Beastie is this years' winner of the Cottier Composition Competition. It was inspiring to hear McCue's work elicit a performance that was the most dynamic and distinctive of the entire programme. It's all about the curse of the Scots midge, so it's single-movement format unleases frenetic flashes of colour against a strong structural and harmonic background of basic simplicity. The string writing reveals a sure understanding of the instrumental possibilities, which this RSNO quartet realised with convincing intent.

Ken Walton (The Scotsman)

Staying on the Fringe, local band the Astrid Quartet, based in Glasgow, undertook an ambitious quintet series in Greyfriars Kirk, with cello, clarinet, double bass and piano (respectively) joining them in Schubert, Brahms, Dvor?ák and Elgar. Most intriguing, though, was the 14 August concert, when the quartet was joined by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s charismatic principal trombonist Dávur Juul Magnussen in two new pieces by Glasgow-based composers, for the unlikely but – as it turned out – entirely convincing combination of trombone and string quartet.
…Claire McCue’s After the Before had more rhythmic bite and urgency, with Magnussen supplying some intensely characterful playing in the final movement’s assertive melodies, and the Astrid players tackling the composer’s demanding writing with poise and sincerity. 
It was only a short concert, but it was an unexpected delight, and a festival highlight.

    David Kettle (The Strad)


Perhaps more immediately prepossessing was Claire McCue’s After the Before, a more traditional three-movement work and so-called because she wrote the movements in reverse order. The trombone begins like a fugitive, fleeing over the strings, before a second movement pitting Magnussen’s expressive trombone against the tip-tapping of the Astrid’s hard-working bows in almost cinematographic music that hinted at lyricism. Both pieces impressed, although occasionally fell a little short in their exploration of the ensemble’s possibilities. The Astrid’s last concert, today, is the Elgar Piano Quintet with Scott Mitchell.

Sarah Urwin Jones, (The Times)

… a stylish, colourfully orchestrated piece, its quiet, twitchy first bars the prelude to the titular 'surge' of energy. [Surge]



“”Drawn from one of those passing incidents in life that touch us all, McCue’spiece, for wind quintet, piano and mezzo, demonstrated a lovely light touch in its scoring, with here and there a Stravinskian feel to its rhythm and a beautiful, slightly Eastern flavor to the woodwind arabesquesthat decorated Catriona Morison’s telling of the tale. Within all the technical features however, it was McCue’s ability to sustain a mood of reflection that most impressed.”  [A Scrap of Life]

(Michael Tumelty, The Herald) 

 …“In Claire McCue’s Train to Nowhere, the momentum eased to allow some lyrical, soulful musing on the cello….this was all good stuff, well-played by the Fidelio Trio, and a testament to young composers who believe what they say.” [The Train To Nowhere]


(Michael Tumelty, The Herald)

Xi: Imaginary NumbersThe maths behind Claire McCue’s Xi: Imaginary Numbers mystified me, but the music, for large ensemble, was direct and immediate, launched with a series of strikingly dramatic gestures, propelled by a rhythmic pulse and an insistent, driving quality with intriguing little curls of melody on top.

                                                           (Michael Tumelty, The Herald)