Music review: Alasdair Beatson & Friends, Paxton House, Berwickshire

A sensational double bill from pianist Alasdair Beatson with violinist Colin Scobie, cellist Philip Higham and clarinettist Robert Plane kicked off this year's Music at Paxton festival. The first concert, an unusual selection of German chamber works, showcased the talents of each musician.
Alasdair BeatsonAlasdair Beatson
Alasdair Beatson

Alasdair Beatson & Friends, Paxton House, Berwickshire *****

In his 12 variations on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from Mozart’s Magic Flute Beethoven has fun with Papageno’s famous aria. Twinkly music box passages on the piano contrasted with the cello’s soulful articulation of the bird-catcher’s desire for a girl or a wife.

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Beatson and Scobie beautifully captured the springy dotted rhythms and darker tonal shifts in Schubert’s Sonata in G minor while Beatson, Higham and Plane brought a Wagnerian muscularity to their lively and dramatic interpretation of Brahms Trio in A minor. The musicians got the balance between the instruments just right as they surfed the waves of this restless and ravishing music with aplomb.

The opulent surroundings in the picture gallery at Paxton couldn’t be further from the concentration camp where Messiaen composed and first performed Quartet for the End of Time.

There was much to savour in the ensemble’s second concert from the heart-wrenching wailing of the solo clarinet to the chime-like piano chords unsettling the more tranquil violin and cello harmonics.

There was little respite from these intense episodes unleashed with a controlled power by these fine musicians. They kept up the momentum right to the final note on the violin held high over the ebbing piano chords for what seemed like an eternity.

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