WITH a masterclass, instrumental clinics, opportunities to consult specialist makers and restorers, showcases for competition winners, wall-to wall concerts, displays for the instrumental trade sector and an education programme all running at the RSAMD throughout the weekend, nobody could complain of being shortchanged at the Strings Attached Festival.

The festival was staged to mark the centenary of the birth of the legendary Glaswegian-born viola player, William Primrose.

Primrose played and recorded with the greatest musicians of the day, commissioned and inspired the finest composers - from Britten to Bartok and Hindemith - to write new music for his instrument, and, above all, helped establish the prominence of the viola as an instrument to be taken seriously, and in its own right.

At root, however, the festival, which was continuing yesterday with the arrival of the supreme Belcea Quartet and violist Isabelle van Keulen, was about performance. Appropriately, then, the launch concert featured a recital by one of the greatest viola players in the world, Japanese musician Nobuko Imai, pictured, who, with the peerless Ian Brown, pianist from the Nash Ensemble, threw the spotlight on works either commissioned by or associated with William Primrose.

A strangely cool affair, though Imai is a player of phenomenal discretion and understatement, the recital failed to ignite the passions of the music. Paul Hindemith's Sonata, a big-boned, Romantic canvas, really required a more extrovert, flamboyant approach than it received. Similarly, Roy Harris's Soliloquy and Dance came across as a bit of a flat wash. Only the performance of Britten's miraculous Lachrymae touched the soul of the music. A disappointing start, despite the effortless technical wizardry on display.

What a contrast with the exuberant warmth in the all-Brahms recital given by mezzo Jane Irwin, the wonderfully expressive viola player Philip Dukes and pianist Sophia Rahman - a complete replacement team for a near-disastrous wipeout of a set of performers (see Billboard for details).

This was a different calibre of music-making altogether, even in the arid acoustic of the academy's opera studio, with lush, delicious singing by Irwin of Brahms's two viola songs, her resplendent, rich and clear mezzo voice luminous on six other songs for voice and piano alone, and a memorable performance of the E flat Viola Sonata, with Dukes on his finest lyrical and flowing form.