String Quartet in B flat, Op.50/1
Five Movements, Op.5
String Quartet in E flat, Op.127
[Alex Reddington & Dafydd Williams (violins); Mark Braithwaite (viola) & John Myerscough (cello)]
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 17 January, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The third of this season’s Monday platform concerts, presented by the Park Lane Group, brought the Doric Quartet to the Wigmore in a recital of what might broadly be termed Viennese classics, plus a short piece by the currently ubiquitous James MacMillan. Memento (1994) is an effective memorial to the publisher David Huntley, its Gaelic modal harmonies combined with an intense lyricism which made it not out of context in the programme as a whole.
Either side came works which almost define an A to Z of Viennese classicism. Haydn’s B flat quartet, first in his Op.50 set, is notable for a substantial opening Allegro built from the pithiest of motivic means. The Doric followed its involved logic through with dependable sureness, and found the right liveliness of wit in the Menuetto, The deceptively simple variations that constitute the Adagio were a little foursquare rhythmically, and though the false recapitulations during the finale were tellingly pointed up, the coda’s throwaway humour could have sounded more spontaneous.
Webern’s Op.5 is difficult to bring off as a rounded, coherent whole. The Doric did seem a shade tentative in the compacted sonata movement that opens the sequence, but brought out the stoic introspection of the even-numbered pieces, as well as a cumulative intensity to the final Movement that made it the demonstrable culmination. Throughout, the ensemble had the right tonal finesse for this spare and elusive music; in which the evident concentration of those present was in appreciable contrast to the restless audience that greeted the Psophos Quartet’s fine debut just a week earlier.
The postgraduate musicians who comprise the Doric’s personnel have yet to reach that level as an ensemble, but there is no mistaking either their individual or corporate ability. The account of the first of Beethoven’s ‘Late’ quartets worked best in the movement where it normally falls down – the Adagio’s subtly interrelated contrasts of tonality and tempo being delineated with a sure formal focus. The scherzo needs greater abandon and rhythmic flexibility if its subversive wit is to register fully, and though the Doric had real feeling for the outer movements’ expressive weight, the formal density which Beethoven invests in these outwardly Classical designs was insufficiently underlined.
A successful and enjoyable concert, even so – one which confirms the Doric Quartet as an ensemble with an undoubted future.