• ALEX REDINGTON: First violin
  • JONATHAN STONE: Second violin

Monday 9th October, 2017

The first concert of the new Subscription Series for Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts was given by one of Britain’s leading string quartets, The Doric. A regular audience member commented that Monday’s was the best quartet performance he had ever heard. Many in the audience specifically acclaimed the Doric’s performance of the first piece in their programme, Benjamin Britten’s Quartet no. 1 in D op. 25.

Cellist John Myerscough mentioned the sense of broad sweeping landscapes projected by this music. This was certainly true of the first movement. The land and seascapes around Lowestoft and Aldeburgh where Britten lived and worked brought to life these windswept panoramas. Throughout the work, but especially in this movement, the cello provided the solid core of the music while the other instruments at the top of their range were like the winds swirling around that well-founded cello core. In the following Scherzo, light bouncing rhythms were punctuated by startling stabbing motifs.

Calm prevailed in the third movement. There was delicious playing especially from first violin, Alex Redington. His violin was not muted but his soft tonal quality almost suggested that it was.

The final short movement began with chattering conversation between the instruments. The rhythmic pulse of the music was irresistible. What a fantastic performance, so full of instrumental colour, depth of feeling and excitement. I think if Britten himself had heard this performance even he would have been astonished at just how strikingly colourful his music is in this quartet.

If Britten’s Quartet is austere and windswept, the opening movement of Haydn’s Quartet in A op. 20 no.6 had sunshine galore. The Doric Quartet played with a striking blend of joy and delicacy.

In the second movement, the cello provided a rich steady bass while the others encapsulated Haydn’s direction ‘cantabile’. The Minuetto epitomised the very spirit of the dance followed by a wonderfully light footed finale. As with their performance of the Britten, the Doric’s Haydn was the composer at his very best.

The final piece in the programme was Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E flat op. 44 no. 3. The opening Allegro vivace was tuneful, lissome, energetic, followed by a scherzo that was pure Mendelssohn, lots of notes tumbling forth at top speed in a dazzling precision performance. The slow movement was lustrous in its melodic outpourings and the finale could only be described as stunning with astonishingly virtuosic fingerboard work especially from the cello. I say that because it was he whom I could see clearly from where I was sitting – but the whole ensemble were brilliant.

On every level: technical virtuosity, instrumental colour, interpretation and understanding of the music, yes – just sheer musicality, the Doric Quartet were fabulous. The best quartet performance ever heard? Well, I’m not going to argue with that!

The Doric String Quartet Review