Maxwell Quartet Strings Together Masterpieces

Exuberant stringed quartet from Scotland for Performing Arts Series photo

For the fourth installment of the 2021 UW-Platteville Performing Art Series, the Maxwell Quartet recorded and performed a concert via YouTube on Mar. 8.
The Maxwell Quartet harkens from Scotland and usually performs throughout the United Kingdom and Europe with special occasions of when they cross the Atlantic Ocean.
According to their website, the Maxwell Quartet “officially began in 2010 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where its founding members met as postgraduate students” and represents the immense power of mixing folk music with classic music.
Duncan Strachan, celloist, introduced the group and their program for the performance while standing on the Eastern coast of Scotland in East Lowden, Scotland.
The quartet prepared and performed an array of pieces to honor their favorite artists, including Joseph Haydn, the creator of the stringed quartet, and actively strive to convey the unique power of Scottish folk music with the elegant strings of Haydn as well as glorious pipe tunes, Gaelic songs and fiddle tunes.
The four began with one of Haydn’s pieces, his Opus 71 in C major, which Haydn composed for a special visit to London, when he was known to be of celebrity status.
Just breaking 20 minutes long, Haydn’s piece brings a warm ambience, and the Maxwell Quartet delivers it magnificently with a flourishing, well-coordinated dynamic.
Strachan appeared again on the sands of East Lowden as the master of ceremonies for the performance, presenting the next flurry of pieces.
He introduced the first two pieces as those from a father-son duo from the 1800s. The first piece, written by Nathaniel Gow, is titled “Kyle’s Fieldhouse.” The second piece, written by Nathaniel’s father and infamous fiddler, Neil Gow, is titled “Drunk at Night, Dry in the Morning.”
After the Gaul pieces, Strachan introduced a third piece, “The Bootman,” this time from the Waster Isles, or Outer Hebrides and Western Isles (anglicized). Strachan described the piece as a lament of “her longing for her loved one’s return from sea.”
Strachan also introduced a jig and reel from the Shetland Islands, and he finished with pieces from Northeast Scotland: “The Burning of the Piper’s Hut,” an aged pipe march from the Highland clearances; “The Marquis of Huntley;” and “Miss Gordon of Gait.”
The quartet began with the Gow pieces. Nathaniel Gow’s “Kyle’s Fieldhouse” began gently and elegantly, but soon pounced upon the quartet’s strings with fulfilling, energetic thrills and thumps. Neil Gow’s “Drunk at Night, Dry in the Morning” followed with a peaceful, light melody and atmosphere.
“The Bootman” brought forward a wave of slow, pensive music. The well-known jig and reel “Da Full Rigged Ship/Da New Rigged Ship” from the Shetland Islands contrasted this emotion, sounding as if a good sea shanty or two could erupt.
With the Northeast Scotland pieces, the quartet truly brought together folk music and classic music, transforming what would be played through pipes and wind instruments to a stringed performance of similar vigor and strength.
To conclude the performance, Strachan introduced the final piece, Haydn’s “The Rider” Opus 74 n. 3 in G minor.
He described the piece as “full of contrast and character, between folky, funny, serious and grave character, and very sincere as well.”
All four movements of “The Rider” showed a collectively thorough kaleidoscope as Strachan had provided, and properly tied off the quartet’s performances for the evening.
The Maxwell Quartet consists of Colin Scobie and George Smith on violin, Elliott Perks on the viola and Duncan Strachan on the cello. As they strive to combine folk music and classical music, the quartet enables the audience to experience a wide salvo of fantasies and realities ranging from shanty-singing ships and the wintry bluffs of Scotland to vibrant history and rich culture.
The final performance for the Performing Art Series, the Pro Arte Quartet, will occur on April 29 at 7:00 p.m.
For more information, visit In order to purchase tickets, call (608) 342-1298 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the University Box Office, located in the lower level of Ullsvik Hall.