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Reviews: West End Festival

Daniel's Beard

Daniel's Beard

Cottier's Theatre, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

THROUGHOUT the first week of the Cottier Chamber Project, I've become aware, from en passant comments and questions, that whereas diehard concert-goers know every musician who crosses the stage and where they come from, not everybody does; and some people are curious. I can't name every single musician, and which orchestra or ensemble they belong to (insufficient space) but let's do a wee bit to help, as week two gets under way.

Friday evening's early concert was a major event, with a superb performance of Schubert's String Quintet which confounded the view that, because the Quintet, with its extra cello part, is a late work, it is therefore a valedictory work. Not in this performance it wasn't.

The string players of Daniel's Beard, violinists Alastair Savage and Alice Rickards, with violist Andrew Berridge, and cellists Tom Rathbone and Sonia Cromarty (the first four from the SSO, Cromarty a freelance) played with enormous energy and drive in the opening movement, found intense and dramatic activity in the Scherzo, and set a ­ terrifically-chunky pace and feel in the finale.

Of course the heart of the Quintet, the miraculous slow movement, might be seen as a tender, poignant note of farewell; but in a performance as good as Friday's, it goes way beyond that. In the slow movement, Time appeared to stop, and, for that moment, these five players, with incredible concentration, held still the passing of Time and, for this listener, the regular, pulsing flow of breathing. Absolutely magical.

The transcendent Quintet was prefaced by the infectious, folksy Tanec of Hans Krasa, one of the many musicians who perished in 1944 in Auschwitz.

Red Note Ensemble

St Silas Church, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

THERE'S a critical point to be made about the impressive concert staged in St Silas Church on Saturday. Two related points, actually. Only the Red Note Ensemble has the nerve to stage a completely uncompromising programme of unremittingly-tough contemporary music.

You don't agree? Name me another and I'll name you their compromise point. Secondly, only the Cottier Chamber Project is prepared to give over an entire concert to a showcase portrait of the music of a single composer at his most uncompromising. You don't agree? Name me another and I'll list their compromises with tradition and orthodoxy.

On Saturday night, in a series of performances that made no attempt to soft-sell, but cut straight to the heart of the matter, Robert Irvine and John Harris's Red Note Ensemble presented a ­ portrait-concert of the music of Edward McGuire, light years from the composer's usual profile as flautist with the Whistlebinkies and classical composer with the blood of the Scotch snap in his veins.

Moreover, most of the pieces presented had not been performed in Scotland; so we heard McGuire's Second Quintet, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, abstract in its intention, though with a Scottish flavour in its atmosphere; and his beautiful String Trio, striking in its isolated notes and sounds, entrancing in its dance-like flurries and rhythms.

McGuire's relatively widely-performed Elegy was movingly-played, while his Entangled Fortunes came over as a challenging mix of intellectual discussion with a dance-like feel to the accumulation, and a dramatic and cathartic interruption by the rawness of the reel, an unexpected guest at this little feast. All of this will be recorded by Delphian.

Red Note still need £4,000. Anyone help?

Sarah Ayoub Trio

Cottier's Theatre, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

OCCASIONALLY, and always unpredictably, a strange synchronicity occurs around the performance of a piece of music: it might be the time, it might be the place, it might be the moment. You cannot predict it; you cannot thwart it. It simply occurs, and all you can do is acknowledge it.

One such moment occurred in the 6.30pm Cottier Chamber Project concert on Thursday, around the scheduled performance by the Sarah Ayoub Piano Trio, an award-winning group from the RCS stable. They were programmed to play two piano trios, the universally-acclaimed trio by Ravel, which is a ravishing, though fiercely-sophisticated and difficult ensemble piece to unleash from the page.

And the young group, with violinist Aaron McGregor, cellist David Munn and pianist Sarah Ayoub, did a tremendous job bringing the music out of print and into radiant life, glowing with its sense of momentum and the concentration in the performance of its solo cadenzas.

But they also gave a compelling and unified performance of the late Thomas Wilson's single-movement Piano Trio of 1966, an early work that I've never heard, but one which contains, in its Bartokian rhythms, abrupt sectional contrasts, forward drive and lyrical impulse, so many seeds of what was to follow from the great west end composer.

And the synchronicity? Thursday night, the 12th, was the 13th anniversary of Tom's death. Nobody knew, until his widow, Margaret, mentioned it before the concert. And, secondly, championship of Tom Wilson's music was very high on the agenda of Andy Saunders when he conceived the Cottier Chamber Project about five years ago.

I know this. I was there. He told me then.

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