Classical review: Edinburgh Quartet; Reid Concert Hall

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PLAYING to a capacity house, the Edinburgh Quartet are clearly a popular fixture in Edinburgh University’s long-standing series of free Tuesday lunchtime concerts at the Reid Concert Hall.

In the first of three programmes this academic year, pairing each of Haydn’s Op 33 string quartets with works by 20th and 21st century British composers, the B minor quartet, the first of the set, was a very good place to start.

Known as the ‘Russian Quartets’ thanks to their dedicatee, the Grand Duke of Russia, it is the elegance of 18th century Vienna that shines through No 1 of the series.

Lightly bearing the bright warmth of their sound, matching the autumn sunlight streaming through the hall’s high windows, the opening Allegro was playful in the Quartet’s hands, led by first violin Tristan Gurney.

With every care taken to set just the right tempi, the quartet’s four movements were skilfully paced, with Haydn’s fondness for arpeggios adeptly exhibited, particularly when required of Gurney in the lively and virtuoso-like final Presto.

In contrast to Haydn’s happy good humour, Three Idylls by Frank Bridge were lush and deeply lyrical. Reflective too, as if telling a story, the darkness of the opening viola solo, beautifully played by Jessica Beeston, carried on through to the drama of the second movement in the quartet’s homogenous tone.

As a light touch again rippled through the ensemble’s playing, the final idyll introduced a more cheerful spirit, which well suited the Edinburgh Quartet’s musical style.

Rating: * * *