Tim Homfray attends the performance of Haydn and Beethoven at London’s Wigmore Hall on 23 January 2023

Doric String Quartet_Credit_ George Garnier (1)_web

Doric Quartet. Photo: George Garnier

The Doric Quartet opened Haydn’s op.50 no.5 Quartet in F major as if it were a question, with violins followed by curious ‘wrong’ notes in the lower instruments, before resolving into a satisfying perfect cadence. It offered a veritable musical mini-drama, all within the first eight bars. A mix of wrong-footing wit and tonal richness ran through the movement, with some fleet passagework from leader Alex Redington. The slow movement was a seamless meditation, a single lyrical arc. Some teasing touches of rubato added theatre to the Menuetto. Redington produced some soupy portamentos at the beginning of the finale, steadily taken but with a nice energy. Its humour was heightened with touches of rubato, including a couple of bars of heavy unison ritenuto, all given with twinkles in the eyes.

Violist Brett Dean joined the players for Beethoven’s C major Quintet op.29. The musicians gave a spacious account of the opening Allegro, and were closely observant of the many pianos and pianissimos, the more to bring out the drama of the abrupt fortes in the development. They took an equally broad view of the second-movement Adagio molto espressivo, with a surface serenity and subtle, expressive phrasing. After the spirited rustic dance of the Scherzo, the Presto finale was theatrical and suitably colourful, not least in the deliberately incongruous Andante section in the middle of it, an effect Beethoven liked so much he repeated it in the coda.


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