Edinburgh International Festival music review: Arcanto Quartet at Queen’s Hall, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle
The all-star Arcanto Quartet is made up of four internationally recognised string soloists – so a recital from the group always raises the issue of individual versus corporate expression. In their blistering Queen’s Hall recital, they got to show off both, and to hugely powerful effect.
It was all about the ensemble in their enterprising opener, a finely sculpted performance of three early Fantazias by Purcell. And although the pieces would have originally been performed on viols, the Arcanto players pleasingly didn’t play up the raw ancientness of the music in their fresh, rounded performances.
And in the Britten Third Quartet that followed, it was all about the individuals – helped by Britten’s eloquent (and demanding) solo string writing, which they tackled with enormous flair. It was the closing movement, a hushed, restrained and deeply personal meditation on themes from his opera Death in Venice, that will stay long in the memory.
There was nothing restrained, though, about the Arcanto’s extraordinary closing Schubert G major Quartet D887. It seemed like every contrast was abrupt and extreme, and even the tiniest melodic fragments wrung for emotion – usually dark despair. There was nothing mundane or workaday about their astonishingly demanding, not to say exhausting, account, but they could maybe do with drawing back a little to create something truly expressive.
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
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