Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The first three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 64

The Six String Quartets, Op.64:
No.1 in C
No.2 in B-minor
No.3 in B-flat

Doric String Quartet [Alex Redington & Jonathan Stone (violins), Hélène Clément (viola) & John Myerscough (cello)]

Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson

Reviewed: 22 February, 2018
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Doric String QuartetPhotograph: www.doricstringquartet.comThe dark opening of Opus 64/1 provided a reminder of the silky tone of the Doric Quartet and in Haydn the musicians adapted their euphonious nature to the style of the music and here is a movement that responds to their expressive approach. Previously in this Haydn series I have had reservations about the subjectivity with which melodies were sometimes phrased but in these three Quartets, despite treating some themes in a personal manner, the structure of the music was respected. Allegretto ma non troppo is the marking of the second movement (Allegretto indicates a moderate speed so I’m not sure how not being too moderate can be achieved) but in fact it is a calm, flowing Minuet. There follows an Allegretto scherzando which serves as a slow movement but with the Doric Quartet it became more dance-like than the Minuet itself. Straightforward solidity informed the reading of the Finale – the nature of each movement had been was taken on its merits.

The Opus 64 Quartets were published by Johann Tost, a noted violinist, but Haydn’s writing gives no special prominence to the leader, indeed the Adagio non troppo of No.2 has its main melody expounded by the cello which is also involved in the decorative variations that follow. The subtlety of the Doric members’ phrasing was well in evidence during the Trio of the Minuet although the rustic dance-like nature of the surrounding music was not retained. It is in the Finale that a Doric episode was in evidence, the first theme being announced thoughtfully before it surged into a Hungarian dance. The score does not make this differentiation but this touch of exaggeration was a pleasing enhancement of high spirits as was the absolutely straight approach to the humorous ending where Haydn has the music evaporating.

Humour is also much to the fore in the opening movement of Opus 64/3 which, after an elegant announcement, has the cello bouncing the instruments forward to a new tune – the opportunity for some overstatement of the effect was eagerly taken up. This outgoing work, features the most gentle and thoughtful slow movement. Hushed and beautiful was the approach to this Adagio; this was the Doric Quartet at its most sensitive. The Minuet is full of stresses in unexpected places; they were cleverly pointed but the contrastingly gentle treatment of the central section didn’t quite match because Haydn is by now in jolly mood – driven further by the sunny Finale. Broken rhythms, a bar or two of unexpected sentimentality, and bouncing cheerfulness – all were brilliantly accommodated.

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