The Six String Quartets, Op.64:
No.4 in G
No.5 in D (The Lark)
No.6 in E-flat
Doric String Quartet [Alex Redington & Jonathan Stone (violins), Hélène Clément (viola) & John Myerscough (cello)]
Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson
Reviewed: 28 February, 2018
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The Doric Quartet’s refined tone combined with attention to strong dynamic contrasts means that forte passages had considerable strength combined with great warmth. This characteristic was particularly appropriate in the opening Allegro of No.4, a complex movement with many powerful episodes. Careful regard to phrasing – a Doric attribute – did not hinder the flow of the music. Although the dance-like nature of the Minuet’s Trio was understated, the Adagio, containing a gently lyrical central section, was constant in tempo and gracious in execution. The Finale was approached firmly and made more substantial by obeying the repeat of both halves.
Constancy of pulse also characterised the approach to the ‘Lark’ Quartet which captures the attention at once because of the unusually late appearance of first violin with its allegedly bird-like melody. The slow tempo for the touching Adagio cantabile was firmly sustained giving room for sensitive moulding of melodies. A moment of firm deliberation on entering the Trio of the Minuet was a subjective moment but effective because the section still kept to speed. The virtuosic Finale became a highlight; played with soft tone yet amazing detail: very fast, yet every strand was clear.
Quartet No.6 has an amazing mixture of moods – Haydn adds all manner of melodic fragments within the conventional sonata form of the opening movement. The beauty of the Andante was fully revealed – the Doric musicians at their most sensitive. An emphatically rhythmic Minuet followed – an unusual movement for there are two Trios, the second being a varied form of the first. This is how the Doric members performed it but Haydn’s instructions leave the option of playing the second Trio to the performers and some choose not to. The Finale is fun throughout – enhanced here by the wickedly slow ultimate reference to the main theme.