Classical review: Daniel’s Beard, Glasgow

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In a programme where Richard Strauss’s early Piano Quartet should have been the one familiar work, even it – dating from his pre-Rosenkavalier days – bore an unfamiliarity that spoke more of Brahms than the adventurous composer who was soon to deliver the fierce expressionism of Elektra and Salomé.

Daniel’s Beard - Cottier’s, Glasgow

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In the event, then, this major piece of unexpected hardcore 19th-century Austro-German writing was every bit as rare to the ears as the newer works in Daniel’s Beard’s early evening programme –Volker David Kirchner’s Il Canto della Notte and John Stringer’s Tenebrae – both more fully scored for piano, string trio and horn.

There were Teutonic hallmarks, too, in the work by Kirchner that opened like a Mahler symphony – the falling third on the piano answered by stifled horn – and went on to conjure up moods of the night with beautifully clear textures, harnessed internal energy and a central section driven by moody jazz ostinati.

Stringer’s work – written for Daniel’s Beard and premiered at last year’s Sound Festival in Aberdeen – proved a quite different manifestation of shadows and darkness, playing teasingly with silences and ultra-delicate mercurial textures, barely audible at times, which sat in perfect context to the shadowy nooks and crannies of the former church building that is Cottier’s.

The Strauss didn’t bring out the most polished presentation of the evening, but there was a burning musicality about this performance that captured the ravishing beauty of the Andante and the rigorous vitality of the Finale.

kenneth walton