A place of pilgrimage for centuries, St. Mary's Church, Whitekirk, overlooks fields – blonde and cropped at this time of year. The acoustic in this concert was, for me, the Lammermuir Festival's most magical match of medium and venue. The Navarra Quartet resonated richly, without in any way compromising clarity. This was especially true of several sudden chords in Haydn's String Quartet in C Op 54 No 2 (1788). Written for violinist, Johann Tost, who was a colleague during Haydn's employment at Esterházy, this work is something of a showcase for the 1st violinist. Magnus Johnston gave a very good account of himself, nowhere more so than in the tensely rhapsodic 2nd movement where the florid part has a distinctly Magyar flavour. This meter of this movement is very free and the ensemble of the quartet was impressive.

Navarra Quartet © Robin Mitchell
Navarra Quartet
© Robin Mitchell

Also benefiting from the marvellous acoustic was harpist, Emily Hoile, who performed Britten's Suite for solo harp, Op 83. Like the Haydn, this too is a show-piece and was written for Ossian Ellis who premièred the work at Aldeburgh in 1969. Despite her youth, 19-year old Hoile exhibited complete mastery of the instrument and the piece. Immediately impressive was her control in the Introduction, which builds up through a succession of punchy, off-beat chords at rhythmic odds with the bass line. The many harmonics in the central Nocturne sounded magical in this setting and the articulation in the following Fugue made for a driving performance. A notable part of the Lammermuir Festival is their involvement with East Lothian school pupils. Emily Hoile, in addition to taking part in several concerts throughout the week, had been involved in outreach work in local primary schools. If the pupils responded with the enthusiasm of Whitekirk's audience then the county may soon enjoy an exaltation of harps.

Beethoven's String Quartet in E minor, Op 59 No 2 'Razumovsky' can be described as a middle period work. His musical journey, which was to culminate in the ground-breaking content of the 'late quartets' was well under-way. Expanding dramatic content was already straining the stitching of the form's classical clothing. The length of movements is one of the factors - the 2nd movement, Molto Adagio, weighing in at around 12 minutes. When one takes into account the inspiration being the starry firmament, then 12 minutes seems quite concise. This movement was rendered with great composure by the Navarra Quartet – literally enjoying the space. The more erratic and parodying feel of the 3rd movement, Allegretto, came over very well. Exhorted by his patron, Count Razumovsky, to include the folk song, Glory to the Sun, Beethoven acquiesced but seemed to exact revenge for artistic interference by placing the song in a relatively inglorious setting. The surrounding portrayal of what sounds like an inebriate navigating a thicket of syncopation - wheezing and pausing accordion in hand – ensures the necessary deflation. The life-affirming Finale, joyously played, brought this excellent afternoon to a close.