One of the joys of a Scottish Ensemble concert, apart from the group’s infectious ebullience, is that their programmes make you think about music in a different way. In Mozart by Numbers, a duo, trio and quartet by the composer was juxtaposed with a modern equivalent for the same forces. But first, a solo from violinist Daniel Pioro. He set the scene with fluid double-stopping and ringing strings, in Caroline Shaw’s, In Manus tuas. This reframing of Bach, Tallis, with a nod to Pårt, traversed the old and new divides with panache.
Music review: Scottish Ensemble, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****
Throughout all these pairings, it was apparent just how grounded Mozart’s music is in melody, tone, rhythm, structure and the deft interweaving of distinct instrumental voices compared to the contemporary works. Both Edward Finnis’ Sister for violin and cello and Sally Beamish’s trio The Alchemist created alluring shape shifting and indistinct ethereal soundworlds dominated by resonant harmonics. While in Kurtág’s Rappel des oiseaux from quartet 6 Moments Musicaux the strings uncannily imitated piccolos and flutes as they fluttered and tweeted.
After two Mozart divertimento, a quintet and sextet, the Scottish Ensemble upped their numbers to 16, including a pair of horns and oboes, for Mozart’s Symphony No 20 in A major. This punchy, turbo-charged delivery was full of bite, and playful humour with the musicians clearly having fun.
Although the modern music was fascinating in its reflection of the fragmented and often chaotic world we live in, it was Mozart’s tunes we were humming all the way home.