Haydn: String Quartets: in D minor, Op. 9 No. 4; in C, Op. 50 No. 2; in G, Op. 76 No. 1; in B flat, Op. 50 No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: String Quartets: in D minor, Op. 9 No. 4; in C, Op. 50 No. 2; in G, Op. 76 No. 1; in B flat, Op. 50 No. 1
PERFORMER: Doric Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0032

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From the enthusiastic applause between items, and the rapt attention during them – a few stifled coughs aside – it is evident this programme, recorded live at the Wigmore Hall in January 2009, was hugely enjoyed. Whether that enjoyment entirely transfers to disc is another matter.

Without the sight of the players going at it, some of their tempos sound a little on the stolid side – the subtly asymmetric opening movement of the C major Quartet, Op. 50, No. 2, is scarcely Vivace as marked. And the microphone picks up their leader’s tendency to sniff on upbeats all too clearly.

The London-based Doric Quartet has been together for a decade now, cultivating a robust, warm and resonant sound and a penchant for detailed interpretative nuances – little hesitations of phrasing, for example, or spurts of tempo which might sound spontaneous in the heat of the moment but can seem mannered on repetition.

However, their choice of works is very nicely balanced, beginning with the tightly written early Quartet in D minor, Op. 9 No. 4, that suddenly pre-echoes the mature Haydn years ahead, and rounded off with the genial Quartet in G major, Op. 76, No. 1, in which the players find a lightness of articulation not always evident earlier.

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And they duly catch the audience out with the trick ending of the finale of the Quartet in B flat, Op. 50, No. 1, thrown in as an encore. Bayan Northcott