Cottier Theatre, Glasgow

June 2015, Michael Tumelty

THERE was a cloud hanging over the writing-up of Monday's Cottier concert, at the end of which I heard of the death of conductor Walter Weller, who would have known and worked with the four musicians in the Glasgow String Quartet, all seasoned members of the RSNO, for many of whom Weller was a respected figure and a revered maestro.

But what a stonker of a concert violinists William Chandler and Jacqueline Spiers, violist Ian Budd and cellist Betsy Taylor turned out for the Cottier Chamber Project. It included a wonderfully-characterful performance of Sally Beamish's Opus California, a stunning quartet that had my head reeling with its needle-sharp evocations of Californian scenes; the second movement "snapshot" of the Golden Gate Bridge from the air was dizzying.

As good as that was, the group's performance of Shostakovich's Ninth String Quartet, in the Cottier's on-going cycle of the Russian master's quartets, was awesome. Despite the beginnings of some sort of liberalism in the Kruschev era, it was still a long way before 1990 and the end of a system - and the beginning of what?

Shostakovich still had much complex personal and political ground to cover, and in the 1964 quartet I think he was still treading warily and obliquely in the huge piece. The Glasgow String Quartet's edge-of-the-seat performance hit me as having struck an acutely-perceptive balance in the music: strutting away wittily and jauntily one moment, then abruptly turning in on itself, muttering conspiratorially in guarded motifs, those things that were still too risky to say aloud. This was gripping, real-life music-making from the GSQ, on a sad night.


Photos ©Jane Reid
Website ©Neil Gowans 2015