Aurea Quartet

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IT is impossible that the Aurea Quartet and featured composer Matthew Whiteside, who programmed this recital at his alma mater, could have known how apposite the music would turn out to be on the date it was performed. Most oddly coincidental was John Uren’s Her Own Dying Moments, soundtracking a reading of an open letter to David Bowie by palliative care doctor Mark Taubert, which has been a celebrated part of the marking of the passing of the rock star, played here, by chance, on the fourth anniversary of his death.

Just as remarkable, was the pertinent opportunity to hear a live performance of the atmospheric Daughters of Sol, commissioned from Iranian composer Aftab Darvishi by the Kronos Quartet, with the quotations from women artists that are projected to accompany it giving an entirely different perspective on a country that has dominated the news in the past week.

Between those two came the vibrant and exciting three-movement Rondo Mondo Rondo by New Zealander Gareth Farr, which really showed what this technically-outstanding quartet can do. Percussive and rhythmic, it is a work that shows off the individual virtuosity of the players as thoroughly as it demonstrates their ensemble coherence.

As audiences of his The Night With . . . series of touring contemporary chamber music concerts know, Whiteside is unafraid of challenging company for his own music, and two of his quartets, No.4 “Entangled”, and the world premiere live performance of No.6, opened and closed the recital.

The post-minimalist bold sparseness of the latter suggests any number of directions that the composer might pursue, and, appropriately, it opens the excellent album of his work that the Quartet has recently released. The disc takes its title from the earlier work, however. Untangled was commissioned by the Institute of Physics, references the scientific work of Whiteside’s great-uncle John Stewart Bell, and comes accompanied by images redolent of the earliest days of cinematography from Glasgow choreographer and film-maker Marisa Zanotti, whose work has been absent from the city for too long.

Another triumph of inspired contextual programming by the young composer, with a little assistance from serendipity.