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Duncan McTier’s solo double-bass career has emerged from a non-conventional background of grammar-school education and a degree in mathematics. He has appeared as a soloist in more than twenty countries and with many leading orchestras, and has made more than fifty solo recordings for radio, television and record companies. Composers who have written works for him include Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Robin Holloway, John Casken, John Hawkins and Gavin Bryars.

Like countless other string soloists, McTier teaches. He is Professor of double-bass at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Zürich. He gives masterclasses all over the world and holds a summer course at L’Académie de Musique de Sion, Switzerland. A further interest—chamber music—sees him perform and record with the Nash Ensemble and the Fibonacci Sequence.

On record McTier is a player of great refinement and technical élan, laudably capable of varying his style and tone in different repertoire. The attractive and varied miniatures that he has recorded with Kathron Sturrock well display his versatility. These include (from a 1996 album) a distinctly atmospheric Fauré Elégie (although the central climax is perhaps rather undramatically slow), a Mendelssohn transcription that—whether for technical expediency or style—includes some very appropriate nineteenth-century portamenti, and Cassadó’s Requiebros, which is vivacious and full of palpable excitement. Glière’s famous Tarantella (recorded in 1989) is impressively agile.

In larger-scale repertoire McTier continues to show sensitivity and refinement, although sometimes prioritising these qualities over directness in projection of ideas. Thus the Schubert and Hindemith Sonatas (2000) are delivered at a dramatic price, as it were. Nonetheless, and despite Sturrock’s understatement of the Romantic aspect of the music, the first movement of the Hindemith shows considerable technical powers.

An unquestionable masterpiece, from 1993, is Maxwell Davies’s Strathclyde Concerto No. 7. McTier gave the première in 1992 and proves a compelling, almost hypnotic interpreter. Much of this music is gently reflective, drawing the listener into a private sound world of considerable depth and poignancy; McTier’s playing here is absolutely at one with the refined sound of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the composer’s baton.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

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Role: Classical Artist 
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