Nicholas Yonge Society

Chamber Music in Lewes

22nd February 2013

Haydn String Quartet Op 20 No 3 in G minor
Bartók String Quartet No 5 in Bb, Sz102
Schubert String Quartet No 14 in D minor, D810 ('Death & the Maiden')

Doric Quartet in performance 

“Just think of Bartok as Haydn 150 years later... if you leave with a smile on your face, then we've done our job!”.  Cellist John Meyerscough's hope was certainly fulfilled by the beaming audience at this, the second visit of the Doric Quartet to the Nicholas Yonge Society; their first was nine years ago, just six years after they were formed.  They now have a different second violin and viola, and have matured from the up-and-coming quartet of 2004, into a world-class ensemble.  The first half of their generously substantial programme brilliantly paired the third of Haydn's Op 20 “Sun” quartets with Bartok's fifth quartet.  The G minor is the quirkiest of Haydn's Op 20 set, full of the unexpected.  The four instruments, liberated by the new style of quartet writing, toss ideas around, argue and joke with each other, almost destroying the form that has just liberated them.  The Doric, like some other young quartets- such as the Ebène - emphasise the range of Haydn's characterisations, pointing phrases with rubato and expressive changes of tone quality; this approach may not be to everyone's taste, but I loved it and found myself thinking of Haydn as Bartok 150 years earlier.

The Doric's Bartok, in turn, brilliantly emphasised the colours and rhythmic vitality of Hungarian folk music, its daunting tongue-twisters deftly negotiated.  Happy smiles all round, we were in the hands of masters!  After the interval, we had the more familiar, but harrowing “Death and the Maiden” quartet of Schubert.  Again the Doric showed the range and flexibility of their playing, giving beautiful voice to Schubert's line, holding us in deathly-pale pianissimos before leaving us behind in a breath-taking dash to the end.   Excitement poured out of the hall with a very satisfied audience.

Reviewer: Chris Darwin
Photographer: David James