Music review: Meta4, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Finnish string quartet Meta4 clearly think long, hard and deeply about their music.
A strangely magical sound worldA strangely magical sound world
A strangely magical sound world

Meta4, Queen’s Hall * * * *

That much was evident even in the programme for their International Festival recital, featuring two welcome works by women composers – a rarity by Fanny Hensel (née Mendelssohn) as well as a bracing contemporary work by their compatriot Kaija Saariaho. And it was evident, too, in their fiercely committed, microscopically nuanced playing, where every gesture felt wrung for maximum emotional meaning, every texture finessed to within an inch of its life.

In fact, it felt at times like the Meta4 players might have been overthinking things a bit, to the extent that their rare moments of simplicity and directness came as a welcome relief from the searingly intense emotion and pinpoint precision elsewhere.

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They set out their stall in a surging, churning E flat Quartet by Hensel, thin on vibrato but heavy on high-definition contrast and hard-edged determination.

Their closing work, Schumann’s A major Quartet, Op. 41 No. 3, was driven hard in its finale but lingered long over the anguished slow movement. In between, however, came a brilliantly balanced, expertly paced account of Saariaho’s Terra memoria, in which the foursome’s captivating conviction made a compelling case for the work’s strangely magical sound world.

It was an exhausting recital, but one that was never less than thought-provoking.