Classical review: Pavel Haas Quartet, St Peter’s RC Church

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AS PART of the West End Festival, the Cottiers Chamber Project presented no less than three concerts yesterday, the last of which featured the wonderful Pavel Haas String Quartet.

Pavel Haas Quartet

St Peter’s Rc Church

Star rating: * * * *

This was a collaboration with Glasgow Life, whose residency association with the Czech ensemble has come to an end.

And what a way to bow out – a programme that coupled the highly individual Quartet No 2 of Czech composer Pavel Haas with Mendelssohn’s high octane Octet, for which the ensemble drafted in four Czech friends.

They had an interesting acoustic to deal with, a reverberant church that suited better the austerity of Haas’s music than the thickset business of Mendelssohn’s, for it was the Haas that truly hit the spot.

It’s a curious work, that includes a set of percussion in its final movement, played here by talented Royal Conservatoire of Scotland student Glynn Forrest. I’m not convinced it adds anything vital to a piece that is otherwise crammed with hard-boiled references to Haas’s teacher Janacek, teaming with euphoric snatches of native folk tradition, and buzzing with repetitive energy. But the sheer visceral quality of the playing brought it magnificently to life.

The Mendelssohn, though played with lightning vigour, couldn’t always free itself from the acoustical porridge. So much so, the low set opening of the finale sounded like a Harley Davidson revving through the gears. What did work were the rising Bach-like suspensions in the Andante, as well as many other periodic golden moments.