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Edward McGuire 60th Birthday concert, Glasgow University

Written by Michael Tumelty, The Herald

reproduced with permission

The Edinburgh Quartet with Jessica Beeston

From a number of perspectives in both traditional and classical music, Edward McGuire is among Scotland's best-known composers. He's not a self-proclaimer, but in the music community he is an almost iconic figure in a quiet way.

Yesterday, the members of the Edinburgh Quartet, with guest violist Jessica Beeston (daughter of EQ violist Michael) unveiled a programme devoted to McGuire's music that was as revealing as it was celebratory of this modest figure's 60th birthday.

It culminated in McGuire's Guest Quintet, one of his supreme pieces, which is an extraordinary amalgam of styles original and borrowed, with helpings of Bach and Bartok, along with original music, woven together into a seamless amalgam of energetic music. It featured the only collective appearance in the concert of the full quartet with its extra viola and, firing on all cylinders, they produced a rambunctious performance of the Quintet that had the feel of a jam session.

The tribute had opened with young Jessica Beeston, a stunning violist, in a gripping performance of McGuire's Martyr, his first commission, from 1972, which, in its breathtaking profusion of ideas and confidence, sounded like a bursting open of the floodgates of inspiration.

Less demonstrative and assured were the Seven Modal Duets for viola and cello from the mid-sixties, which revealed a composer moving towards a folk music idiom: he had something to say, knew what it was, but hadn't yet quite figured how to deliver it.

The excellent String Trio of 1986 revealed mature McGuire, with Gaelic and original elements in complete integration, all garlanded with the composer's inimitable light touch. A good, informative retrospective.

  • published on 15 February 2008
  • written by Michael Tumelty, The Herald

Reproduced with permission of The Herald, Glasgow (Newsquest Media Group) © 2008 Herald & Times Group