It was barely 10 minutes long, but the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Armistice commemoration commission formed the calm, contemplative centrepiece of what ended up as quite an uneven concert under French/German cellist/conductor Nicolas Altstaedt.

The commission in question was from Glasgow-born Martin Suckling, and his Meditation (after Donne) has quite a back story. Thinking back to the bells that pealed across the country to mark the Great War Armistice a century ago, Suckling had crowd- sourced recordings of bells today from listeners across Scotland, collating and ordering the resulting sound files, then weaving them together in a keyboard-triggered tapestry of clangorous sounds and textures. Alongside his bell soundscape, diffused across the interior of Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall, he conjured piquant, microtonal orchestral harmonies that emerged imperceptibly from the bells’ jangling overtones, or summoned a naive, folk-like string tune that threaded through them, or later a gnarly, keening oboe duet.

The result was impressively immediate, thoroughly captivating, and well received by the Edinburgh audience. And it melded together with uncanny ease the somewhat contradictory senses of celebration, anger and grief that Suckling had described in his pre-concert talk. Beyond that, though, it was the fragile sense of community the work suggested – in creating a shared space for reflection, whose origins lie in contributions from right across Scotland – that created the piece’s potent emotional resonance – and one that tied it neatly to the John Donne Meditation No. 17 that inspired it. Only some slightly mystifying typewriter-like key-clicks from the woodwind struck a slightly unconvincing note in an otherwise enthralling score.
— David Kettle