One of the more stimulating aspects of Festivals is the way they can stretch ensembles and stimulate audiences with pieces outside the standard repertoire, and this fourth instalment of the 2017 Musica Viva Festival did just that with three contemporary works wrapped around a Romantic masterpiece.

For me, the best came first with the Goldner String Quartet’s intense and controlled performance of Pēteris Vasks’ third essay in the form. The Latvian composer, now 71, has written two more since this work from 1995, but its warmly tonal idiom allied with a quest for peace, both inner and outer, typifies the work of a master who manages to marry a notational complexity with a direct emotional simplicity and deliver sophisticated works able touch more than just the musical aesthete. In its sparer moments – the first and third movements especially – this is music that offers nowhere to hide, and frankly, the Goldners triumphed, their technical mastery making this tricky piece seem deceptively straightforward.

Goldner String Quartet. All photos © Thijs Rozeboom

Opening with Dene Olding’s stratospheric pianissimo, Vasks’ musical imagination proceeds by way of pizzicati, spiccati and the occasional glissando to...