Edinburgh Quartet

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce, four stars

THE change in personnel for this concert may have been forced upon the group, with Tom Hankey leading and the Berkeley Ensemble’s leader, Sophie Mather, coming in as second violin, but from the first bars of Mozart’s G Major Quartet No 14, the balance of the instruments here was really quite special.

It is tempting to give a deal of the credit for this to the newcomer, whose tone partnered Hankey’s quite beautifully, but of course she was only a quarter of the sound in a programme that gave both cellist Mark Bailey and, to a lesser degree, Catherine Marwood’s viola their own time in the spotlight.

The Mozart was really the anomaly in the recital, which is repeated at Glasgow City Halls on Thursday evening, completing the group’s “points of the compass” sequence of concerts. Vienna is due South of some places (Gdansk?), but it is difficult to hear this work of the composer’s early maturity as “southern”. The second movement is quintessential Mozart, and the canonical finale – on which the dynamic attack was led by Bailey’s cello – is full of joie de vivre and fun.

The cellist was also to the fore in the Quartet No.6 by Brazilian Villa-Lobos, which did justify the concert’s billing. The instrument states the second movement theme to pizzicato accompaniment, and is again in a leading role in the muted third, very much the heart of the work, in which pole position is passed around every instrument. If it is rather French-sounding, the rest of the work is identifiably American, with a particular debt to Copland in places.

Less than a century previously, Verdi wrote his sole string quartet, and it is every bit as dramatic as you would expect. There is a whole garden scene of confused lovers in the second movement Andante, followed by two pacey showpieces that show the composer to be a master of the form, had he not been tied up with all that opera-writing.