Shostakovich Late

Any venue that gives out wine on entry is likely to endear itself to the audience, but ROSL on Princes Street is endearing even without such generosities; a delightful space lined with patterned wallpaper and mirrors facing a small stage where the evening’s musical accompaniment was to be performed from.

First up were Yelian He on celllo and Yasmine Rowe on piano, known collectively to a fair degree of international acclaim as ‘Y-Squared’. He spoke eloquently before beginning the piece, (Shostakovich’s Sonata in D minor, op 40), winsomely recalling his days of tutelage and his fondness for the piece as it marked his graduation from the monotony of scales.

It opens with a lilting and soft timbre ‘Allegro non Troppo’ which bursts into a frenzied and almost morbid ferocity before melting away as quickly as it had arrived. A demented ‘Allegro’ in ¾ time followed, before a sombre ‘Largo’ and a rhythmic and exceedingly Russian final ‘Allegro’ marked with fearsomely paced cello arpeggios from He drags it to the end.

Following this were the New Zealand-born Rothko Quartet making their debut in the UK and also marking the debut performance of their first piece, the angular ‘Refrain’ from Kiwi composer Alex Taylor. Viola player Alex MacDonald explains that it was ‘written at a time of social paralysis’ and under this provenance, ‘Refrain’ is appropriately skittish; a flighty beast filled with silences and blasts of almost atonal chorales and closes with furious staccato stabs across all four instruments.

They closed with Schnittke’s Quartet No. 3, a moral tonal but still striking effort; a beautiful ‘Andante’ with real poise picks up into a bright ‘Agitato’ before ‘Pesante’s’ pizzicato descant quavers the piece and the night to a cool and appropriate close. An apparently rare foray into contemporary music was one only fitting for this new, young and prodigiously talented set of musicians and made for an excellent evening.

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Performances

The Blurb

Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata and searing String Quartet No. 8 plus Schnittke and others. Rothko, Cavaleri Quartets, Yelian He, cello, Yasmin Rowe, piano. Different programmes each evening. Stiff musical nightcap for Fringe diehards. Includes glass of wine beforehand. www.roslarts.org.uk.

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