Most memorable of all, however, was the Dunedin’s swaggering, gutsy Brandenburg Concerto No 1, with parping natural horns threatening to overwhelm the modest ensemble, but still adding hugely to the boisterous yet superbly intelligent performance. It was as though Butt and his players were rediscovering this well known music afresh all over again, and taking their listeners with them.
Shining equally fresh light on established classics was the period-instrument Quatuor Mosaïques (****), who delivered a bracing programme of Mozart and Beethoven amid the Arts and Crafts splendour of Chalmers Memorial Church, Port Seton, on Saturday afternoon. From their intense opening Mozart Adagio and Fugue K546, there was a deliciously gritty rawness to their playing, in which every articulation came firmly to the fore, something to be equally admired in their buoyant, relaxed account of Mozart’s D major Quartet, K575. They’ve been recording Beethoven, however, and it showed in a deeply searching account of the E minor Razumovsky Quartet after the interval, from gruff vigour in its opening movement to an otherworldly, almost insubstantial slow movement. Despite the brilliantly accomplished musicianship, however, these felt like resolutely serious-minded performances, with little concern for such trifles as wit and joy.
There was plenty of deep joy, however, in Saturday evening’s concert from young Belgian chamber choir Vox Luminis (*****), amid the appropriately splendorous gilt interior of Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael Church, Musselburgh. It would probably have been enough simply to immerse yourself in their exceptionally beautiful, superbly balanced, goosebump-inducing sound, sumptuous as velvet yet crystal clear in its text delivery. But it was the almost operatic will to convey meaning that stood out, in the subtly differentiated sections of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli and even more so among the unpredictable harmonic complexities of Victoria’s 1605 Requiem. Led by bass Lionel Meunier, who gently coaxed his colleagues from within the group, it was a truly transporting performance, at once deeply spiritual and firmly grounded in meaning and drama. This was only Vox Luminis’ second performance in Scotland, Meunier joked, and their third is their follow-up festival performance this evening. New friends to Lammermuir Vox Luminis might be, but we can hope this might turn into a long-term relationship. David Kettle
The Lammermuir Festival runs until 22 September