Classical review: Red Note - New Music for Strings

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You couldn’t have hoped for a more egalitarian concert. Student players from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s contemporary MusicLab group mingled on stage with the crack performers of the Red Note Ensemble, and likewise, a couple of brand-new student pieces nestled in among the programme’s 20th-century classics.

Red Note: New Music For Strings

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

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The concert’s aims were wholly laudable, and for the most part, so were its energetic performances – although a few things felt slightly rough around the edges.

The timeless repetitions of John Adams’s classic minimalist workout Shaker Loops seemed too much like hard work for the music’s witty harmonic shifts to shine through effortlessly. The sheer verve of the performers, though – especially Red Note violinist Jackie Shave and MusicLab bassist Nikita Maumov – made the whole thing thrillingly compelling.

Shave was joined by MusicLab violinist Catrin Pryce Jones in an incisive account of Arvo Pärt’s hypnotic Tabula rasa, both players beautifully matched in tone, phrasing and lithe movement, even if the limpid second movement seemed rather too hard-driven.

The two student pieces were bold enough to embrace simplicity – Francesca Le Lohé pitting a manic violin against stolid viola and cello in her persuasive Que morro, and Julia Munday summoning rich, opulent harmonies in her graceful, introspective A Series of Apologies.

The highlight was the short, but potent, Prosen by RCS head of composition Gordon McPherson, a lyrical yet turbulent piece written when he himself was a student. It brought together the world of academia, and the world beyond, in a vivid, heartfelt performance.