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The Edinburgh Quartet

Written by Conrad Wilson, The Herald

reproduced with permission

With its focus on the 1950s, the Edinburgh Quartet's winter season at the Queen's Hall is a major voyage of rediscovery. How many people in Sunday's audience had ever heard - or even heard of - Edmund Rubbra's Second String Quartet? Yet it is a masterpiece, perhaps the one total masterpiece, by a composer who used to be thought second only to Vaughan Williams as an inspired upholder of the English polyphonic tradition.

Whether Rubbra's numerous symphonies manage to re-establish themselves remains to be seen, but the second of his four quartets suffers from none of the thickness of texture which makes his orchestral works now seem such a trudge. On the evidence of this lucid, sinuously unfurled performance, the Edinburgh Quartet has hit upon an abandoned but by no means lifeless piece of the British repertoire - music not drearily insular but almost Beethovenian in the spirituality of the cavatina which forms its slow movement.

Uniting behind their new leader, Charles Mutter, the players treated it as a true string quartet, beautifully and spontaneously written for the medium. The same, of course, could be said for Haydn's E flat major quartet, Op 50, No 3, and Brahms's B flat major, Op 67, which formed the rest of the programme. Yet it is not every performance which brings such lightness of touch and deftness of phrase to the Brahms, making it on this occasion the perfect postlude to the metrical subtleties of the Rubbra.

reproduced by kind permission of the author.