Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The last three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 20

The Six String Quartets, Op.20:
No.4 in D
No.5 in F-minor
No.6 in A

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

Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson

Reviewed: 8 November, 2017
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Doric String QuartetPhotograph: www.doricstringquartet.comThis concert completed the Doric Quartet’s survey of Haydn’s Opus 20 at Wigmore Hall; and, as with the first three, sympathetic attention to every phrase was of the essence.

The quiet opening thirty-six bars of No.4 were taken in a relaxed, highly expressive manner – almost as if it were a thoughtful introduction even though Haydn marks the score Allegro di molto. This carefully considered phrasing typifies the approach to these works and often revealed deep insight into the music. An interesting example of attention to detail occurred in the succeeding variation movement where the theme tended to relax on repeats. It is a feature of the Doric approach that a repeat (and all were made) is not necessarily the same as the first time through. Next a controversial approach to two movements of Hungarian nature: the Minuet marked Allegretto alla zingarese was taken at a racing Presto which tumbled wildly forward giving the cello-led Trio no chance of keeping up to speed – nothing Hungarian remained – and the fast and furious Finale was exciting enough if with no chance of hearing all the notes.

Such eccentricity was a ‘Doric moment’ during a masterful evening of revealing interpretation. The intense and beautiful performances of the remaining two works were very satisfying. In the extensive opening movements every turn of phrase was infused with meaning, making these relatively early Quartets seem as mature as any of the composer’s later such works. In the Adagio movements the Doric members again achieved their quiet magic Nor was there any problem with the Minuets – that of No.5 strode firmly and colourfully and in that of No.6 I can forgive the Trio ending so dreamily because this indulgence made the return to the Minuet seem so witty.

This was a period when Haydn often closed Quartets with a fugal movement. That of No.5 is serious; that of No.6 more joyful. Both begin sotto voce and here the Doric’s approach was wonderfully effective – hushed, tense, very fast and with every intricate detail clearly evident; such quiet moments revealed Haydn’s innermost thoughts with utmost sensitivity, also evident in the gentle interpretation of the slow movement of Opus 64/3 given as an encore.

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