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Review: West End Festival

Daniel's Beard

Daniel's Beard

Cottier's Theatre, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

WHAT a night, with back-to-back concerts at 6.30pm and 8.30pm, at the first of which violinist Catherine Manson and pianist Alasdair Beatson rounded off their selection of Beethoven Violin Sonatas with a mind-blowing performance of the monumental Kreutzer Sonata ("the almighty" Kreutzer, Manson called it). Can we have these two back, please?

Then, at 8.30pm, the string quartet of host ensemble, Daniel's Beard (violinists Alistair Savage and Elita Poulter, violist Scott Dickinson and cellist Tom Rathbone), followed a buoyant and profound account of Haydn's Lark Quartet with a devastating performance of Shostakovich's Third String Quartet, a masterwork packed with wit, sarcasm and racy humour, shattering seriousness and humbling profundity, played with intense concentration and emotional depth by the quartet in a performance which had a point to make.

This is a three-year series, in which the 15 String Quartets will be played numerically. It started last Saturday, and on Wednesday reached the Third Quartet. Now this sounds like a composer moving into a new medium. But at each of the three concerts to date, the Cottier Chamber Project has taken pains, through its programme notes and introductions by the players, to point out that the numbers are deceptive: by the time he started writing string quartets, Shostakovich already had loads of his symphonies under his belt, was a consummate craftsman, and a master in the stealthy art of expressive deception in the face of totalitarian control. And that resonated throughout this gripping performance of the Third Quartet. Further, this emerging point was perhaps not made clear enough in the last cycle done in Glasgow, which was with the Brodsky Quartet.

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