Classical review: Notos Piano Quartet, Berwickshire

As THE Paxton Music Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, it’s impressive to see how this venture has grown from a weekend of concerts to a ten-day feast of chamber music delivered by some of Europe’s finest exponents. This year’s festival opened with a thrilling performance of classical masterpieces from Germany’s multi-award winning Notos Piano Quartet.

Notos Piano Quartet has two new members
Notos Piano Quartet has two new members

Notos Piano Quartet - Paxton House, Berwickshire

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Paxton House’s Picture Gallery not only provides a perfect acoustic but a tantalising intimacy that allows the audience to be at the centre of the music. The quartet too seemed to revel in their surroundings, delivering a dynamic interpretation of Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in E flat Op 16 which perfectly balanced the coruscating piano with the warm tonality of the strings.

Joseph Suk’s Piano Quartet in A minor Op 1, written when he was a 17-year-old pupil of Dvorak’s, was a revelation in the hands of Notos. They grasped the strident romanticism writ large by Suk which dances on a knife edge between classicism and modernism. From the jazzy tempestuousness of the allegro and the piano evocation of babbling brooks in the adagio to the declamatory style of the danced-infused finale this performance was a sensational tour de force.

Although the quartet has two new members their tightly-knit sound suggested the comfortable ease of decades and this approach was to the fore in Brahms Piano Quartet in C minor Op 60. They immersed themselves in Brahms’ foreboding majesty, melting melodies and stamping rhythms with heart-stopping bravado.

Concerts at Paxton have the additional attraction of paintings on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland, including works by Sir Henry Raeburn, Sir David Wilkie and Alexander Nasymth. Following the festival, they will be rehung for the first time in 15 years giving future audiences new works to admire.

Music at Paxton continues until 26 July