Music review: The Edinburgh Quartet

For their first ever Sunday afternoon concert at the Queen's Hall, the Edinburgh Quartet turned to traditional music for inspiration. In a consistently engaging performance, the line-up was not all familiar faces. Nonetheless, with the two regular players of Gordon Bragg on violin and Mark Bailey on cello joined by guests Rakhi Singh as leader and Morag Robertson playing viola, the sound was spot on in balance and blend, while also musically nuanced, as if of one mind.
The Edinburgh QuartetThe Edinburgh Quartet
The Edinburgh Quartet

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

In Alasdair Nicolson’s String Quartet No 3, subtitled Slanting Rain and written for the Edinburgh Quartet, the Scottish melodies and rhythms from the composer’s Hebridean roots sparsely but graciously met with the poetry of Portugese writer Ferdinand Pessoa to emphasise the music’s expression of loss.

Winner of the group’s first Apprentice Competition, initiated earlier this year, Morag Robertson and her beautifully lustrous viola were often central to the characterisation not just of the Nicolson commission, but also the String Quartet No 2 by Kodály. Influenced by the folk of the composer’s native Hungary, it came across with an abundance of Magyar colour.

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It is Russian folk music that permeates the second of Beethoven’s Op 59 Rasumovsky quartets, particularly in its off-beat allegretto movement, which in this performance, like the final allegro, benefitted from the quartet’s bright and lively energy. The profundity of the second movement wasn’t conveyed completely convincingly, but this was clean, clear playing.