Kronos Quartet’s Hamilton Masoleum show will resonate long in the memory

Hardly surprising in a venue seating only 25 people and that apparently has the longest lasting natural reverb of any structure in the world, but the Kronos Quartet and their superb selection of guests provided a series of outstanding performances last night in this show billed as Resonance.

Swathed in sound, the Kronos Quartet were first up on the bill and didn’t disappoint in this obscenely intimate venue, the string musicians utterly captivating in a place so quiet you could hear a pin drop (and then continue to hear it for another 15 seconds or so).

At points swiping their bows in the air to create frission, sometimes making use of pizzicato to build sound and often twisting and turning melodies outside in from within evocative arrangements, the quartet navigated their way through a reliably eclectic short set, though any chaos was kept to a minimum so at to avoid their sound drowning in the environs of the mausoleum. (Instead a subtlety was utilised that rarely allowed those hairs on the back of the neck to get a proper rest.)

It culminated with their rendition of a beautiful Tusen Tankar (A Thousand Thoughts) (you can see their rehearsal of that number at the mausoleum itself in the video above), its lilting Finnish refrain about as redolent of traditional Scottish music as it was successful of summoning a lump to the throat.

After their exit, it was time of a selection of curated guests, each fantastic enough that to try and sum them up in the space of a couple of sentences seems a gross insult. (Still, guess that’s not going to stop me, so apologies…)

The kantele-playing of Ritva Koistinen was supremely heart-rending in its utter fragility. Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq was an absolute standout, the Canadian prowling inside the candle-surrounded circular centre of the mausoleum and proving to be haunting both in breath-takingly beautiful and completely terrifying manners, switching almost instantaneously and at times rapidly between high-octave almost-operatic melodies and guttural yelps, the venue making it seem as though she was duetting with herself in some hypnotic demonic dance. (Catch her at all costs tonight at the Old Fruitmaket if you possibly can.)

Azerbaijani musician were Alim Qasimov and his daughter were also riveting, their free-wheeling, gripping vocals accompanied only by their own percussion. And there were two Scottish male/female duos also on hand to provide some more familiar sounds, harpist Catriona McKay and fiddler Chris Stout providing a relative explosion of sound before settling into a terrific filmic sweep, and Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson and Donald Shaw finishing off the show with a beautiful number. Overall this was a memorable and truly special spectacle, one which will last long in the memory. If only I could think of another word for the manner in which it will reside…

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