I THINK the performance on Thursday by Daniel's Beard of Olivier Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time, while fine in many respects, seemed to lack something essential to the character of the piece. It is a transcendent work in which normal time - clock time and the passage of music through time - appear to be suspended. If you can accept that premise, and the ways in which Messiaen effects it, you will see that the Daniel's Beard performance missed some of the essence.
Overall, there was far too much movement in what, despite moments of frenetic activity, is, at root, a very still and even static piece. Even in the inexorable Dance Of Fury, where the instruments play at high speed in a riveted unison (this was a bit splashy) Messiaen thwarts the charging momentum with his ingeniously-devised rhythms which, deliberately, don't lead anywhere. It didn't really come off here. Christoff Fourie's gorgeously-played cello solo in the fifth movement could well have luxuriated more and stretched its seductive limbs, which violinist Aisling O'Dea's parallel music in the finale did more successfully. Clarinettist Jean Johnson might have slowed more in the final phrase of The Abyss of the Birds, which would have created more effectively that cavernous sense of space and emptiness. Lynda Cochrane's piano pulse in the finale and fifth movement could have been more pronounced, which, paradoxically, might have emphasised the great stillness of the music.
The Quartet is a complex work, but with a clear intention from the composer. For this listener, this version didn't quite transcend. It was great to hear live, as always, but was slightly earthbound.
Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow
NOT for nothing has the Cottier Chamber Project's lunchtime series of concerts featuring unaccompanied string works by Bach been entitled "Bite-Sized Bach". The lunchtime concert runs for about an hour. The Cottier Bach concerts, each featuring just one work, have been nearer 20 minutes, which is not only short, but also throws a spotlight on each masterpiece as it comes along, while keeping everything else that might be there as taster or filler out of the way; and it also allows major, tough music to be presented in a digestible format.
This recital, which was quite astonishing, featured violinist Cecilia Bernardini playing the great E major Partita in a sparkling and scintillating performance that was delivered in a comprehensively period style, with minimal (and tasteful) decoration, allied to an effortless projection.
Where some violinists sound as though they're engaged in a physical and intellectual tussle with the music, Bernardini (currently on trial as SCO leader) made light and weightless music that flowed in every movement.
The Prelude had tremendous drive, the Loure had real poise and stately qualities, the Gavotte an airy spring in its step, and the Bourree a lively gait that was totally infectious.
It was an absolute thrill to listen to and a delight to hear. And, as Cottier Project director Andy Saunders revealed, the authenticity of the violinist's recital extended to her playing from a facsimile of Bach's original manuscript rather than a contemporary edition of the music.