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The Edinburgh Quartet

Written by Carol Main, LIVE MUSIC REVIEW, The Scotsman

SINCE first violinist Charles Mutter joined its ranks last summer, the Edinburgh Quartet has taken on a new, distinctive and attractive character. Formed more than four decades ago, the group has suffered from a number of lineup changes, particularly in recent years, but now, finally, a stable and successful formula appears to have been found.

The critical response to the quartet's output following Mutter's arrival has been positive, and judging by its performance at the Queen's Hall on Sunday afternoon, there is no reason to suppose that there will be a loss of momentum any time soon.

Galvanised by all the intangible forces that a fresh approach can bring, their playing of Haydn, Robert Simpson and Schubert fascinated in being both strongly rooted yet gloriously liberated. In Haydn's Frog Quartet, the apparently contradictory virtues of clear, individual articulation and a gelled-together sound combined to produce an engaging warmth. Lively and up-front, the playing here was coloured with light and shade, a theme that was developed to even greater effect in Robert Simpson's Quartet No 2.

Composed in 1953 - the decade of the Edinburgh Quartet's formation and one from which it draws much of its repertoire - this remarkable piece of music opens to a clear, almost Nordic light coupled with lush English romanticism. But where Haydn's light is playful and teasing, Simpson's becomes ever more uncomfortable and disturbing in its shadows, and the uncertain anguish of the quartet's finale is a world away from its beginning.

As a BBC Radio 3 producer, Simpson pioneered the promotion of neglected music, but it is now his own which needs such encouragement. This was a good start.