The Strad Issue: May 2018  
Description: Superb performances bring out all the subtlety and wonder of these quartets  
Musicians: Doric Quartet  
Works: HAYDN Six String Quartets op.64  
Catalogue Number: CHANDOS CHAN 10971 (2 CDs)

The Doric Quartet audibly relishes Haydn’s games. The players relish, too, the woody sound of their instruments, picked up by the microphones clearly without being over-analytical, and with just enough sense of space around their individual sounds. Op.64 isn’t often favoured to the same degree as the pioneering op.33 or the fully mature op.76 but the Doric makes a fine case for it.

To be sure, these players aren’t above playing fast and loose with some of Haydn’s tempo or dynamic directions. Some might think such an approach too much; others will feel that such an interventionist outlook – taking the score as a starting point, not as gospel – is the very soul of interpretation. Whichever way you feel, there’s no denying that each note here has been picked up, viewed from every angle and placed carefully back in its array. The range of sounds the Doric produces, from clarion calls to whispering, vibrato-lite pianissimos, demonstrates the quartet’s appreciation of the architecture as well as the filigree of the music.

This is challenging in the high-jinks of the finales and the harmonic shifts of the minor-key movements. It’s also hugely enjoyable to be led through these subtle, wonderful works by such enthusiastic guides.