Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Rose Street Quartet (or rather Quintet) play Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Elgar

I first met the Rose Street Quartet on the eve of last year's Edinburgh Festival through the larger Rose Street Ensemble. They played a very interesting programme, which included Bartok's folk music inspired work (along with aged and crackling recordings the composer himself made) and a number of other fascinating items for string orchestra. I wound up there as my friend Caroline, who also plays with the Starlets, a band I've reviewed a few times under my shameless plugs tag, plays with them too.

Sadly things were so mad for me at the time of that concert, that I never got round to writing a review; I never got round to making any notes either, so even looking at the programme now I'm not really able to recapture what was a fascinating and enjoyable programme. Hopefully I'll be able to turn in a review of their forthcoming September concert, featuring works by Bartok, Rachmaninoff and Gal (of course, what I'd really like to hear them try is Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra or Strauss's Metamorphosen).

I mention it al this because Caroline recently drew my attention to a Rose Street Quartet (in which she doesn't play) concert of 1st August. As with the ensemble, it took place in Canongate Kirk, which, particularly at this time of year, is a wonderfully light space.

The programme began with Rachmaninoff's Romance and Scherzo. This was nicely enough played but didn't really grab me as a piece.

They were then joined by pianist Andrew Johnston for the remainder of the programme. First came Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor, op.57. This was well played and with barely any gap between movements. The fugue was particularly wonderful.

However, it was Elgar's Piano Quintet in A minor, op.84 that was the real star of the evening. Both beautifully played and wonderfully heartfelt, as only Elgar can be. The slow movement was especially fine. Throughout there was an excellent balance between the piano and the quartet.

There might have been the odd fluffed note but they are very fine for a semi-professional ensemble and, indeed, more compelling than plenty of professionals I've heard.

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