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Edinburgh Quartet, Frontiers and Bridges

Written by Sarah Urwin Jones for The Scotsman

reproduced with permission

The Edinburgh Quartet with Paul Speirs, James Lowe and Andrew Johnston

THE Edinburgh Quartet are not usually known for their pioneering contemporary music repertoire, so this gala launch concert for their latest CD, Frontiers and Bridges, a project charting some of the early 21st-century protégées of the University of Edinburgh's music faculty, and Professor Nigel Osborne in particular, was fascinating, and much enhanced by Osborne's lively commentary. The Quartet play "new" with as much care and sensitivity - more even, perhaps - as their opening classic, Beethoven's "young man's" String Quartet in F, Op 18, No 1.

Anothai Nitibhon's Dukkha, the first of the two new works on the programme, resonates with her Thai heritage. A piece for double bass and string quartet, the double bass ululating, producing sounds more associated with Tibetan gongs than a large string instrument. There is a darkness on the fringes of this Buddhist vision, the plucked and rhythmic harmonies intersecting among instruments as they pick their way through this unusual aural landscape. The lone cry of the double bass, sensitively played by Paul Speirs, still outside the string quartet flock, ends this atmospheric, occasionally mesmeric piece.

Wagstaff's piano quintet starts somewhat wildly, as shades of Rachmaninov engage in a kind of fist fight with the repeatedly struck chords of prog rock until a more settled aesthetic emerges in the second movement. The final movement is a belligerent fugue with something to prove. It is lightweight, but clever and witty. Although perhaps not quite as developed as Nitibhon's in its musical language, it, like Dukkha, points to fruitful paths to be developed in future.

  • published on 15 November 2007
  • written by Sarah Urwin Jones for The Scotsman

copyright Sarah Urwin Jones, published in The Scotsman
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