Matthew McAllister

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NATIONAL GALLERY OF SCOTLAND ****

Maelasta – Feargus Hetherington & Matthew McAllister

PART of the enduring fascination with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is the darker, more melancholic side of his nature, which he often soothed by playing the violin.

The violin and guitar duo Maelasta shed some tantalising light on what music Holmes might have listened to, as well as what, and how, he might have played, with violinist Feargus Hetherington performing on the Sherlock Violin.

This had been carved by local violin maker Steve Burnett out of wood from a tree in the garden of the Edinburgh house where Conan Doyle grew up.

The mellow, earthy tones of the instrument were well suited to the quicksilver preludio from JS Bach’s Partita in E major. Apparently, Holmes preferred German music to French and Italian, particularly in his more introspective moments. He was also partial to long discussions with Watson about Paganini over a bottle of claret.

Guitarist Matthew McAllister pointed out that Paganini was also a superb guitarist, and his Cantabile for guitar and violin reveals a tender, less flamboyant side to the virtuoso.

The telepathic, dance-like interaction between the two musicians is not unlike the relationship between Holmes and Watson.

This close attunement was particularly apparent in the duo’s exquisite arrangement of Ronald Stevenson’s A’e Gowden Lyric, after Hugh MacDiarmid’s poem, with a nod to Burns along the way.

This series of free concerts organised by Live Music Now Scotland, performed against the backdrop of the National Gallery of Scotland’s stunning collection of paintings, is one of the capital’s best-kept secrets.

Susan Nickalls