Doric String Quartet 20th September 2016 – Review by Helen Simpson, (Schubert and Haydn)

Schubert  Quartettsazt  C minor D.703

This single movement  presages the later quartets in its richness and variety of sonorities drawn from the  four instruments.  It is intense and disturbing in its opening and closing passages. The extreme energy is carried through from the first falling semitonal passage to the exuberantly rising contrasting central section. The abrupt shifts between angst and gentle lyricism are heard in this truly romantic aesthetic and they show Schubert’s writing for the quartet at its most inventive in 1820.

The Doric quartet performed this piece with great clarity and sophistication. We were swept along and held captive to the quickly changing moods as all four parts drew our ears to their sometimes fleeting snatches of thematic material appearing in the overall texture. Nothing was left unexamined and the energy and commitment of these players gave the audience a rare aural treat.

Haydn  String Quartet  op 64. no 5  “The Lark”

The Cellist John Myerscough explained early in the concert that this Haydn quartet was to be the final piece, thereby reversing the expected chronological order commonly employed by programme makers.  The Doric’s fine attention to detail in all four instrumental parts and their ability to show through their playing musical forms and structures, was evident here. We heard this very well known quartet as though for the first time; warm rich lyrical melodies, sharp punctuating accompaniments, and as we had come to expect, an intimate performance which reached under the notes of the score, to explain to the listener something of Haydn’s sound world.

The piece was dedicated to a violinist from Haydn’s court orchestra at Esterhaza and this weight given to the first violin was immediately evident in the first movement where we heard a beautifully executed melody flying high above the three accompanying players. The Lark is obviously invoked here.  The exquisite cantabile movement with its warm opening gave way to a more grounded earthy minor section. Warmth and contentment prevailed and the movement concluded with a very tight ensemble and utter poise. A minuet followed, dancing with style and much grace among all four instruments. The more rustic trio made for contrast and brought more equality within the four lines. This gave way to the repeated minuet which was stylishly performed. The Finale was played with great relish and the Doric’s clarity gave the movement the brilliance that it deserves. The fugato section allowed all players to take equal part in the texture before the movement was brought to its close with a reminder of the Hornpipe opening. Throughout the concert, the listener was helped to recognise and understand the forms and structures within individual movements and whole pieces and our attention was held closely by the players’ skillful and sophisticated performances of such a widely differing programme.

We were given a welcome encore as the slow movement of Haydn’s op. 64 no 2 drew us all back in to the long lyrical lines weaving among the four instruments of the quartet. This sent us out in a calm and reflective frame of mind.