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Edinburgh Quartet,
Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh

Written by Conrad Wilson, The Herald

reproduced with permission

The Herald

Edinburgh Quartet
Star rating ****


For the end of its concert season, the Edinburgh Quartet held back something special.

 
Holding Back - or, in German, Etwas Zuruckhaltend - was in fact the title of the string quartet by James MacMillan played in the composer's presence at Canongate Kirk on Wednesday.

The term, employed by Schumann in his Fourth Symphony, dates from the time when German composers had begun to replace traditional Italian indications with German ones, but MacMillan's use of it referred to an unperformed early work, "held back" during his student years and now revised because he believes it still has something to say.

The music's inspiration, as the premiere revealed, is Wagnerian. The term can be found in Gotterdammerung, and the work's single movement suggests a modern composer's response to the Ring.

Though promised allusions to leitmotifs did not stick out, the atmosphere – an estimated 15 minutes of stillness and storm – was certainly Wagnerian enough.

Lasting, in its revision, closer to half an hour, it proved a substantial, welcome addition to the Edinburgh Quartet's repertoire.

Also including Mozart's Hunt Quartet, Shostakovich's Quartet No 7 and the big Dvorak G major, Op 105, the programme was a good test of the acoustics of Canongate Kirk, the ensemble's current Edinburgh residence.

The succinct, stealthy Shostakovich was admirably elucidated. The Dvorak was unfurled with passion and vigour. Only the Mozart, the nearest in date to the kirk itself, seemed to demand a different sort of sound – the strains, on this occasion, of period instruments?

reproduced with permission.