A quartet sets off on a new adventure with impressive confidence

Doric Quartet: Beethoven

The Strad Issue: January 2024

Description: A quartet sets off on a new adventure with impressive confidence

Musicians: Doric Quartet

Works: Beethoven: String Quartets: op.18 nos.1 and 6, op.59 no.1 ‘Rasumovsky’, op.95 ‘Serioso’, op.127

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHAN20298 (2 CDs)

One or two points of emphasis in op.18 no.1 feel excessive in the moment – especially on repeat – and yet the musical instincts of this new cycle are so strong and sound that such bumps in the road are soon forgotten. In terms of a sound palette, these op.18 performances take off where the Doric’s excellent Haydn op.76 set left us, on the cusp of the 19th century.

Schubert is just around the corner; the Brontë sisters too, in the fleeting, spring-like joy with which the Doric launches a strikingly muscular ‘Rasumovsky’ no.1. A little more rubato has its stylistic place, especially in the gaunt and tragic cast of the Lento, but these studio accounts hold the momentum of a concert performance, with healthy flourishes of cadenza virtuosity as they arise, such as cellist John Myerscough in the first movement’s development.

He also sets the tone for op.95’s Allegretto, which is done with welcome restraint compared to the overwrought pathos of many older ensembles, setting the scene for a biting but again not overdone Scherzo. The album as a whole draws its energies in ever more concentrated form towards a tremendous unwinding of tension in a broad and inward account of op.127’s Adagio. Offsetting it with a novel grasp of the quartet’s architecture, the outer movements recover a Haydnesque equilibrium, at least until the finale’s magical dissolve into something like early Schoenberg. Intelligent, spontaneous-sounding, technically immaculate, these are Beethoven performances that will not go out of date any time soon.