FOUR STARS

THERE is nothing like the Cottier Chamber Project, which rolled out its annual stall at the weekend. And what I mean by “nothing like” was enshrined in the first 8.30pm concert of the festival on Friday night.

Even if the group of the night, the string quartet of parent ensemble, Daniel’s Beard, didn’t have Cottier’s Theatre itself as its platform, it brought its collective persona and brio into the university’s Concert Hall, which can be a soul-less place, and ignited its atmosphere with their group dynamic. There is a feeling to Cottier events that is utterly different to formal chamber music recitals.

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I tend to use the word “spontaneous”.

That’s wrong, of course, but there is a strong feeling that the musicians are there because they want to be there, and they are playing their music because they want the opportunity to so, not because it happens to be on someone’s schedule.

The atmosphere, I imagine, is redolent of Schubert’s famous music-making evenings, fuelled today by wine, conversation, good humour, and the inimitable immediacy of live music.

And that was reflected throughout the performances by violinists Alastair Savage and Alice Rickards, violist Andrew Berridge (all BBC SSO players) along with freelance cellist Sonia Cromarty, whose sizzling, questing and probing account of Shostakovich’s 11th String Quartet, with the composer feeling his way towards something new, was as cogent and compact as a series of incisive aphorisms.

And it was perfectly counterbalanced by the group’s dramatic, broad unfolding of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet, whose finale was hair-raisingly fast, though staying on the rails.