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The Edinburgh Quartet

Written by Sandy Scott, The Edinburgh Evening News

BY the late 1780s, when the first six so-called 'Tost' quartets were written, it had become an established compositional principle to allow each of the four players more or less equal opportunities to predominate. Haydn acknowledged that his royal dedicatee, Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, was a cellist by allowing that instrument to come to the fore in the slow movement of No3.

The Edinburgh Quartet gave the work a crisp and lively performance which underlined the sharing of thematic material throughout.

New leader Charles Mutter interpolated a word of explanation about why the rest of the programme consisted of works by Rubbra and Brahms. Travelling to a concert, the members had heard an unfamiliar orchestral piece that was undoubtedly by Brahms. It was Rubbra's orchestration of his Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Rubbra's career stretched from having been a railway clerk to Oxford lecturer and professor of composition at the Guildhall School of Music.

His long list of works tends to be neglected nowadays, and so the chance to hear his 2nd Quartet in E flat was a welcome one. There are some Brahmsian turns of phrase in its first movement, followed by a complex Scherzo Polimetrico and a Cavatina in which depth of feeling is emphasised by a wealth of detailed performance indications.

In both the Rubbra and almost equally taxing 3rd Quartet by Brahms, the Edinburgh Quartet carried forward the high standard they had established in the opening Haydn.