East Neuk Festival, Various Venues, Fife

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The Independent Culture

Arriving slightly late for a concert in St Monans Church, I listened outside to the strains of Mozart carried across the graveyard, which slopes down to the lapping waves. Inside, under two model boats suspended from the rafters, the vibrant young Sacconi Quartet turned to Janacek's Intimate Letters. The players conveyed every emotion the composer poured into a piece inspired by his desperate love for his younger, married muse.

In the airy, art deco Younger Hall in St Andrews, Christian Zacharias - this year's artist-in residence - presented exactly the sort of innovative programme with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra that gives the festival character and originality. Putting a personal stamp on Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto K491, Zacharias supplied his own first movement cadenza, unusually including instrumental accompaniment alongside his solo keyboard part and intriguing snatches of other Mozart pieces.

He played six of Schubert's German Dances for piano with perspicacity and subtlety. Schubert's Sixth Symphony benefited from Zacharias's directness of approach and the SCO's genial response to his refined interpretation, though not at the expense of the music's dramatic, darker moments.

There was a smallish audience at this concert but the more intimate venues were packed. In Crail Church they were treated to a rippling performance of Schubert's Trout quintet, in which Zacharias was joined by a quartet of string players. Here and later in the evening, when Zacharias gave an elegantly articulated performance of Schubert's spacious G major Sonata D894 by candlelight, the atmosphere was magical.

East Neuk's music festival offers a welcome alternative to the coastline's more established lifeboat galas and fish fiestas.