Classical review: RSNO: Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Edinburgh Dovecot

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The light, bright main space in Edinburgh’s Dovecot Studios was bathed in sunshine yesterday afternoon and packed with listeners, just the perfect visual environment for this RSNO Chamber Series concert, featuring one of the orchestra’s principal clarinettists, Josef Pacewicz, and the Fejes string quartet.

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The first half was all quartet, and the most effectively delivered part of the programme. First came Bartok’s String Quartet No 2, its chilled harmonies benefitting from the easeful homogenous glow of the ensemble, and the rosy resonance of the acoustics. There was excitement, too, in the harsh astringencies of the central movement, and an inevitable acceptance as the final movement drew to its melancholic close. All of which certainly compensated for the slight sense of disappointment in the opening moderato, which calls out – especially in this softening acoustic – for greater intensity, more harnessed electricity, than this less searing account gave us.

No lack of heat in Beethoven’s G major Quartet, Op18 No2, though, expressed here with all the crystalline luminosity necessary to make a convincing, logical case for this early quartet, with its clear allegiance to the influence of Haydn, Beethoven’s teacher.

It’s delicacy and gentle surprises were bound as a neat, subtle and scintillating package.

Plenty lovely moments in Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, particularly Pacewicz’s lithe and liquid clarinet, and the generally supple interaction of the extended ensemble.

Only issues with the collective string tuning cast faint recurring shadows over the performance.