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Mozart, Janacek & Beethoven

Mozart K 421 in D minor
Janacek 2nd Quartet
Beethoven Op 59/1

Doric String Quartet
Alex Redington violin
Jonathan Stone violin
Simon Tandree viola
John Myerscough cello

Wigmore Hall, 29 December 2009

This British group, formed in 1998 at the Suffolk-based National School for Young Chamber Music Players, has been making waves internationally, but for us this was a first experience of their playing and an unforgettable one. During the year we have covered some remarkable quartet playing (most recently the Arcantos) and the Dorics are right up at the top.

The Mozart demonstrated from the start collective decision-making, with a beauty of tone and blend which made one wonder whether their instruments were special ones; they are supported by "an Anonymous Foundation"...

Nothing was taken for granted, each section telling a wordless "story" which held attention, followed by the total contrast in the raw emotion of what proved to be Janacek's last work, embracing passionate love letters to his late-life muse, the actual letters excerpted usefully in the programme notes.

The Dorics seemed to have determined to push extremes even farther than their respected quartet colleagues, with contrasts in Janacek between muted repose and anguished intensity greater than one's memories of other distinguished groups.

After the Beethoven there was no encore; instead a quick move to the foyer for a ritual signing of their Wigmore Live CD [Haydn Op. 9 No. 4; Op. 50 No. 2; Op. 76 No. 1 WHLIVE0032], which was selling like hot cakes in the Hall's Christmas Sale.

In a revealing podcast they tell how they normally talk with the audience to break the ice, especially when giving "modern" music - except at Wigmore Hall whose patrons "know their stuff".

A pity they didn't do so last night, even though there was no ice to break; the sell-out audience seemed to be not "W H regulars", rather people seeking a classical music interlude in the festive season, sparsely on offer in London.

Look out for the Dorics who are touring widely next year. In April they will be making their first recording under contract with Chandos (Korngold quartets) and then playing one of his, plus Britten's 2nd, at Wigmore Hall. Diarised and not to be missed !

Peter Grahame Woolf

Beethoven & Brahms

Beethoven Op 18/4
Brahms Piano quintet Op 34

The Doric Quartet with Alasdair Beatson [pictured].
Wigmore Hall, 21 February 2010

Confirming excellent impressions from December, the Doric quartet gave an immaculate and searching account of the earlyish C minor quartet of Beethoven, with every bar freshly thought out and integrated amongst the four musicians, the music often "driven" by the players of the inner parts.

The refinement and subtleties, precision of ensemble; all was very much of the 21st C; unlikely that anything comparable could have been achieved by the Schuppanzighs? We are living in a great age for the string quartet.

The Brahms piano quintet is one of my top favourites in the chamber music repertoire, and within the last ear I have been privileged to hear several great performances, having waited for many years for one to match the Busch/Serkin recording. But now we have had, within a few months, Uchida & the Hagens, Avenhaus with the Arcantos (live in the Dvorak, the Brahms on CD) and now Alasdair Beatson with The Doric Quartet, long time friends and partners, who are touring with the Brahms.

From the critics' seats at the back of Wigmore hall, balance and dynamics were beautifully judged and the sound and concentration of a carefully considered interpretation had a full house spellbound. My only slight reservation was their hectic race to the finishing line; the score has a tempo, and then agitato, for just the last two lines.

Not a single cough disturbed the listening of this elderly audience of chamber music enthusiasts; these Coffee Concerts get booked up regularly well ahead, with animated conversation afterwards whilst enjoying sherry or coffee; a formidable rival to Sunday church...

Peter Grahame Woolf