By Adriana Draghici
On the 17th of February, 2014, the ACMC were thrilled to welcome the distinguished Doric Quartet back to a packed Cowdray Hall in Aberdeen. The young string players took us through hundreds of years of music, giving us a taste of the early Baroque period of Joseph Haydn, through to the late Classical period of Franz Schubert and the 20th– century era of Benjamin Britten.
The first-class players of the quartet succeeded in effortlessly complementing one another’s sounds and tones. This was seen during the sweet melody played by first violinist Alex Redington in the opening movement of Haydn’s Quartet in B flat op.76 no.4. It gave way to much darker colours given by the beating heart of the quartet, the viola and the cello, played by Helene Clement and John Myserscough. Of course, we cannot forget Jonathan Stone, the second violinist, who played an equally important part in completing the musical painting.
The first movement of Haydn’s work is often described in a Haydnesque nickname as “The Sunrise” because of its sweet calm chords in the lower strings and upward sequences, on this occasion played by the leader, Alex Redington. Haydn’s association with nicknames seen in his quartet can be seen throughout history by looking at his symphonies. ‘The Surprise’ is a well-known nickname example given to his Symphony No. 94 for the surprisingly loud chord found in the slow movement. ‘The Clock’ is yet another nickname given to his Symphony No. 101 for its ticking sound. The Adagio movement is another of Haydn’s melodious and intimate compositions which no doubt captivated the audience. However, it was the Menuetto which made everyone in the auditorium smile as they were carried away in a wonderful joyous experience. Even the most intense of listeners could not help but relax in their chair, especially after seeing Helene Clement and John Myserscough give a wonderful smile to both the other members the quartet and to the audience. The finale was played with the same terrific energy, and the delight of the audience was made evident by the extensive applause.
Throughout all of the three movements of Britten’s Quartet no2. Op.36, the players were undoubtedly breathing together, each player’s gesture mirroring the others. The first movement had a vigorous and eerie atmosphere, produced by the spiky tenths. They formed the quasi-threatening like questions and answers which were passed from instrument to instrument, starting with the sweeter and innocent first violin and finishing with the gloomy answer of the cello. This intense yet very intimate feeling was created partly by the distinctive sound of the muted instruments, and the impatience felt through the aggressive fast passages of a cornucopia of sounds that blended together. However, the highlight had to be the viola cadenza given by Helene Clement during the last movement of the Britten. She nailed those double stops and brought elegance even to what was essentially an aggressive cadenza.
After the brief intermission, the Doric Quartet introduced a piece by Franz Schubert, namely Quartet in G major op. 161. It gave the audience a little relief from the intense and rich chords of Britten but still had something of the late Beethoven aura. The tierce de Picardie at the end of the last movement saw the struggle of the minor key won as it finally reseeded in the home key, G major, leaving the audience clapping as each player bowed in acceptance.
Overall, the Doric Quartet gave a remarkable performance. They delivered the music with appropriate sensitivity in regard to the style specific to the period of each work. These four musicians came together well and provided an energised finale to a great evening of music.