EQ: Dance! (Various, until 14 June ’17)

“A real treat”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

The Edinburgh Quartet are one of our favourite live music acts here at Edinburgh49, and while normally it’s my colleague Charles we defer to for his superior knowledge of classical music, I was interested to see how a collaboration with Youth Dance Scotland would work, and what unexpected gems might be uncovered when combining classical music with contemporary dance.

The evening commences with a traditional musical performance by the quartet, followed by three dance/music collaborations: all original compositions for the quartet, and with original choreography from Marc Brew.

The first of these, For Sonny captures a very childlike and playful feel, with the dancers darting in and around the musicians (who are positioned centre-stage), seeming to make the rules up as the go along. There’s an element of give and take to the piece as the dancers respond directly to strokes from the quartet in the quieter elements, and to movements from each other – as if playing a rather bizarre version of “follow the leader” throughout. It’s fascinating to see such a close relationship between the dancers and the musicians, even though the danger of collisions sometimes causes the heart-rate to rise somewhat!

The quartet move to the side of the stage for the final two pieces, yet still feel integrated within the performance as the dancers watch and respond to them throughout. The second piece feels just slightly more grown up as the dancers adopt a more uniform and unison approach to their movement, though they become more animalistic – like a set of production line workers in rebellion against the formality of the everyday. Different dancers take turns to break out from the group, using more and more of the space, until they surround the quartet at the end, as if waiting for their next direction or inspiration.

Silent Shores has a significantly more ensemble feel, and combines the best of both of the previous two pieces, with some daring lifts and tableaux in direct response to the music, following its stops and starts with playfulness and control. Reflecting the nature of the isle of Arran, it’s a complex interrelationship as the different aspects of the piece – contrasting stillness and frantic movement – bring about a sense of ongoing time and flow, like the changing of the seasons.

Overall what’s most pleasing about the whole setup is the relationship between the dance and live music, which is cleverly structured and choreographed to integrate the two. At times the movements did lack a little polish and finesse – but perhaps given that the piece is touring across different venues in Scotland for just one night at a time, it can be expected that the dancers will have to adapt to the size and shape of their performance spaces each time, not allowing them to fully relax into each performance.

Something for both dance and classical music aficionados, a real treat. It’s a shame that, at just shy of an hour, the performance is so short.



Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 10 June)

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Edinburgh Quartet (Queen’s Hall, 17th Feb. ’16)

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“An interpretation of utter conviction, inspiration and stellar playing throughout”

Editorial Rating:  4 Stars: Nae Bad

The Edinburgh Quartet continued the second phase of their 2015/16 Season under the banner of “Storm and Stress”, derived from the loose translation of the German ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement of the eighteenth century. In this movement passionate expression was given free rein in literature, but also in music with works by Haydn and Mozart at the forefront. The Quartet performed a typical Sturm und Drang work by Haydn, Op 76 No 2 “The Fifths” alongside Bartók’s thrilling, dissonant but rewarding 3rd Quartet and Grieg”s surprisingly complex and at times  dark Quartet in G minor.

The Quartet got straight into their opening number with final tuning completed off stage. This, along with their precision and togetherness, immediately gave the audience confidence that they were in safe hands and in for a treat. So it proved.

The Haydn has (if you will forgive the pun) no hidin’ place (geddit?) in the transparency and openness of 18th century music, and chamber music in particular. The quartet were not found wanting. Clarity, accuracy, full on expression and commitment were the order of the day, and brought this 200-year-old work fully to life. At the end of the first movement I could not stop myself whispering “Wow” under my breath. By the third movement what impressed me most about this band was their sheer synergy. Disciplined, supportive pizzicato to Tristan Gurney’s lead violin, lightness of touch in the final movement with lead violin again doing most of the heavy lifting, as well as the dramatic opening fifths that told us this band meant business.

I have to say I had my heart in my mouth for the Bartok. A complex, austere work with brutal sul ponticello and col legno bowing, glissando fingering and a deep contrapuntal architecture, all grafted on to Hungarian folk song in a collage of different shades and expressions, at times highly dissonant, at others wistfully melodic. A hard act to pull off and a work after which the string quartet genre was never quite the same again. It has probably only been done justice by the Alban Berg Quartet, although the Takacs have given a creditable performance, and it was refreshing to hear the Edinburgh Quartet’s assured version of this piece that makes demands of players and audience alike.

I particularly enjoyed how the musicians let the music speak for itself – the various techniques demanded by the composer contributed to the overall musical experience rather than distracting through novelty or sensationalism. By this I mean the disconcerting col legno (basically bashing the bow up and down on the strings, even reversing the bow so the wood strikes them) was artistically justified!

We needed a breather after that and the interval proved welcome respite. We returned to the auditorium expecting some dreamy Grieg. Not so. This was more Peer Gynt than the Holberg Suite. A major, serious work full of contrasts, based on Spillemand, a Norwegian song from 1876, that gave us a strong, dramatic opening leading into a more lyrical style as it progressed. The quartet rewarded us with an interpretation of utter conviction, inspiration and stellar playing throughout. Special mention here has to be made to Cellist Mark Bailey laying down a melody of plaintive yearning, sensitively supported by ripieno violins and viola.

So, taken in the round, once again some really creative programming delivered with enthusiasm and élan. Putting Haydn and Bartok together before the interval took some courage, and it worked, albeit lacking just a touch of the transcendental magic shown in the Quartet’s previous outing. An engrossing, rewarding evening’s music. Bravo.


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Reviewer: Charles Stokes (Seen 17 February)

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