Stuart MacRae composed a trio for clarinet, cello and piano for the 2014 McEwen Commission. The piece, Ixion premiered on Thursday 6 November 2014 at the Concert Hall, University of Glasgow.  

Performed by Yann Ghiro, Duncan Strachan and Simon Smith. The piece takes its title from the Greek myth in which Ixion is tricked by Zeus into seducing a cloud (Nephele) in the shape of Zeus's wife, Hera; his eternal punishment is to be fixed to a burning wheel in the heavens.

Decorative design element

Listen to… Ixion by Stuart MacRae in full

Programme note

King Ixion, in Greek mythology, violated the code of hospitality by murdering his father-in-law while he was a guest at Ixion’s own feast. A crime of such treachery was hitherto unknown, and Ixion was cast out. Zeus took pity on him and welcomed him, but again Ixion proved himself unworthy and lusted after Zeus’s wife Hera. When Zeus proved Ixion’s deceit, he punished him by binding him to a revolving, flaming wheel.

The piece is comprised of eight ‘moments’, discrete yet continuous sections that each focus on a particular musical trajectory or atmosphere (and the musical materials associated with these).

The first moment contains all the materials of the piece in embryo, and each subsequent moment focuses on a particular one of these – though not in the same order. These are (in order of appearance): broken chords (arpeggios) that can open out in different shapes and directions; declamatory repeated notes (first heard in the clarinet); an uneven (short-long) rhythm; a sonorous held chord; a very quiet emerging chord.

Although subsequent moments may appear to depart quite considerably from these archetypal ideas, everything in the piece stems from some extension or combination of them.

The piece does not follow a narrative; but the image of Ixion eternally turning in space on his wheel of fire (a galaxy!) was very much in mind as I composed several of the piece’s moments – an image at once distant and tangible, poignant and majestic.

Stuart MacRae 2014

Performer biographies & full details of the Ixion premiere can be found in the McEwen concert programme 2014