north east scotland's festival of new music

press reviews

Primrose Piano Quartet

Written by Alan Cooper


The Primrose Piano Quartet was welcomed back to the Cowdray Hall by Dr. Roger B. Williams to give another in the Lunchbreak Concert series. The work which opened Thursday's performance was a piece which the Quartet had commissioned from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in 2007 thus qualifying the concert for inclusion in the events of the Sound Festival.

"Max's" Piano Quartet contains a wealth of evocational sound material including echoes of Orkney fiddle music sometimes a bit tipsy and often surrounded by an aura that suggested the rather bleak windswept landscapes of this special island that is the composer's chosen home.

These echoes of Scottish sounding music occurred at several points during the piece helping to bind it together. A rather pensive and sad Slow Air had for a moment a hint of Easter European folksiness, the sort of thing we get from Kodaly and the Primrose Quartet gave us some of their loveliest gentle playing in the Faroese Lullaby. The piano had his moment of wonderfully feral excitement in the Hortus Conclusus before the work ended with an emotionally powerful hymn making it a fitting dedication to the memory of the Swedish born artist and photographer Gunnie Moberg. Perhaps the Primrose Quartet could come back to the gallery in the future and play this music again in tandem with an exhibition of Moberg's work.

The last time the Primrose Quartet came to the Cowdray Hall they introduced us to a Robert Burns Air on which they had launched a competition for composers to provide a series of variations. As an addition to the advertised programme Susanne Stanzeleit played the Air again followed by ensemble's performance of the competition winner, a splendidly multicoloured setting by one Tom Petty. I tried to find out a bit more about this composer who also works as an anaesthetist but the internet is swamped by information on a musician of the same name, the American pop performer who usually goes under the name of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. If I heard the composer's name correctly, I am certain that he is not the same person.

Roger Williams had personally requested the final item in the programme. It was Gypsy Life by Roger Quilter. Quilter is best known for his lovely song settings but he also composed quite a bit of light music. Gypsy Life is one of those pieces that in the twenties and thirties used to be advertised by publishers as "a characteristic piece". I still have quite a few of these for piano including Blumenlied by Gustav Lange and The Norwegian Cradle Song by Gabriel Morel. These two pieces sound remarkably similar but Quilter's Gypsy Life is one of the finer examples of its type. It took me back to memories of the live music that used to be played in Isaac Benzie's tearoom, sadly long gone. For those members of the audience who could perhaps have found the Maxwell Davies piece "a bit too gritty" for their personal taste, Quilter's music was a splendid musical salve that sent everyone on their way rejoicing and with happy smiles on their faces.

  • published on 4 November 2010
  • written by Alan Cooper

Reproduced with permission of the author.

reviewed event
  Date Day Time Location Event Details
4Thu12.45 pmAberdeenPrimrose Piano Quartet