Doric String Quartet
Lakeside Arts, Nottingham
October 6 2022
Review: William Ruff
Elegance, empathy and musical intensity
The Doric String Quartet made a welcome return visit to Lakeside on Thursday night to kick-start the new season of chamber music concerts. They have an impressive CV, listing a dizzying schedule of international appearances, recordings and awards. So when their cellist John Myerscough said that Lakeside’s Djanogly Recital Hall was by far the best venue they have performed in recently, the compliment really meant something.
In his introduction to the programme he focused on the work they would be playing in the concert’s second half: Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor. It’s strange to think that a major work by such a well-known composer could be so neglected – but it’s true that most people don’t know it. It’s not a piece which gives up its secrets easily but the Dorics made a powerful case for knowing it better. They captured its autumnal colours and its delicate, elusive quality from the outset: the unusual swaying rhythm of the opening phrase, its subdued hesitant quality before a lyrical theme takes flight.
Elgar’s wife, Alice, loved this ‘wonderful new music, different from anything else of his’ and specially adored the Quartet’s slow movement with its reflective, mellow theme, riven with nostalgia. Elgar himself described it as ‘captured sunshine’, although it’s more the sunshine of lost innocence, the music perhaps a lament for all that was lost in the First World War. The Doric Quartet’s passionate advocacy showed that they were completely at one with the nuances of this strangely beautiful music.
They started their programme with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, known as the ‘Quartetto Serioso’. This is Beethoven’s most intense and concentrated quartet, starting very fiercely and abruptly and continuing with a passionate agitation, powerful even by his standards. It seems odd now that the composer should have said that this work was ‘written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public’. History has certainly proved him wrong, especially when the work is played by an ensemble such as the Doric Quartet. They packed a huge punch in those startingly fragmented opening phrases as well as the rhythmic drive and dynamic power which characterises so much of the work.
Offering some respite from all this high emotion came Haydn’s F major Quartet, Op. 50 no 5, known as ‘The Dream’. The Doric Quartet showed that they are also expert at elegance and wit in what became a deeply civilised conversation between friends, with thoughtfully shaped phrases, plenty of light and shade and total empathy for the range of moods through which the music passes.
And the same could be said about the whole programme. I’m sure the Dorics will be back.
Doric String Quartet
Alex Redington, violin
Eva Aronia, violin
Hélène Clément, viola
John Myerscough, cello