Edinburgh Quartet - 50th anniversary gala concert
As the highlight of their golden anniversary season, the Edinburgh Quartet celebrate in style with a special gala concert and new commission from composer Howard Blake, he of Snowman and ‘Walking in the Air’ fame. Blake also appeared as pianist in the Quartet’s very first season in Edinburgh. The new score is entitled ‘Spieltrieb’, a word coined by the 18th century German writer, Friedrich Schiller, which means ‘the urge to play.’ Appropriate then for the Edinburgh Quartet who give over 100 performances each year, both at home and abroad, and have been doing so with great success for 50 years.
Key to its success, explains the quartet’s violist, Michael Beeston, is repertoire. ‘The challenge is the size of the repertoire,’ he says, ‘and we try to cover everything, from the standard classical repertoire to contemporary pieces by composers from or living in Scotland, which is a rich vein for us to draw upon. People like Kenneth Leighton, Hans Gal, Kenneth Dempster, Robert Crawford and James MacMillan.’ Over the years, the Quartet has commissioned well over 100 new pieces of music, often with others commissioning for the group and sometimes composers choosing to write specifically for them.
Touring – they were one of the first chamber ensembles to tour extensively in the Middle East – and educational work are also vital strands of the Edinburgh Quartet’s busy life. ‘Our relationships with a number of universities are very good,’ says Beeston, who has played with the ensemble since 1971 and is the longest-standing current member. ‘We have residencies at the Ian Tomlin Academy of Music at Napier University and at Glasgow University, as well as close associations with Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Newcastle Universities. It is marvellous to work with the students and academics in these places as they really understand what we’re doing.’ Happy 50th EQ!
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 19 Feb