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Written by Michael Tumelty
Published on Friday 9 October 2015
Read on The Herald website

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RCS Ensemble Week rehearsals
RCS student and cellist Victor Nekludov

Quote-Marks-1BUCCANEERING Brio! That is not an epithet (though it would be a good one). It’s an attempt to describe the extraordinary vivacity and almost swashbuckling elan with which the bigged-up RCS String Ensemble and Jonathan Morton’s Scottish Ensemble, playing side by side on Friday, despatched the swaggering, swaying finale of George Enescu’s Octet for Strings, itself bigged-up into an orchestral version.

What a fabulously-effective version of the piece. It came over with enriched, thick-cream textures, very high-calorie content, and absolutely tons of cholesterol: yummy. Yet, where detail was paramount and character critical, as in the circus-act cartwheels of the second movement, with their push-me, pull-you, near-slapstick events, none of the wonderful thickness and near-viscosity of some of the textures clogged up characterisation. Do you know what it was like? An animated oil painting. And the sheer, luminous beauty of the slow movement, with the enriched string section bathing the music in the warmest afterglow following an impassioned climax, was ravishing: it was just the music, of course, but I could swear I heard a chorus of soft humming and sighing.

It was a great performance, blessed by the professionals, but stimulated by the energy, drive, and sheer hell-for-leather enthusiasm of the students: they always have a way of playing as
though their Quote-Marks-2lives depend on it. This partnership is not a new concept or practice. But it is certainly one that should be developed and matured. The only blot on the afternoon was the inclusion, without programme note or introductory comment, of Erkki-Sven Tuur’s scratchy, minimalist-y and superfluous Insula Deserta.