“Subtle yet responsive readings of Haydn, Bartók and Schubert show why this ensemble has been so durable”
Staying power is crucial in the world of string quartets. The supply of first-class players far outstrips demand and it is a sign of the resilience of the Doric String Quartet, formed in 1998, that it has continued onwards and upwards from its early successes in competitions to major awards for its recordings over the past few years.
Its most recent programme at Wigmore Hall was a fairly routine line-up of Haydn, Bartók and Schubert, but the playing itself was not routine in any way. This is the programme, with occasional changes, that the Doric String Quartet will be touring around the UK and Scandinavia until its next Wigmore appearance at the end of April and it is one worth catching.
The questing, restless Haydn String Quartet in F minor, Op.20 No.5, immediately introduced a colour and atmosphere personal to this ensemble. The first violin, Alex Redington, has a distinctive sweetness to his tone, allowing the darker colours of viola and cello a potent influence in the mix of sound, and sometimes he leads his three colleagues into the softest, most withdrawn playing. Their performance of the Haydn was unusually introspective, but always alive.
In Bartók’s Second String Quartet it was the quickness of response that was impressive. The fast-changing motifs of this music demand an ability to pinpoint each new feeling with speed and unanimity. Once again this was Bartók with a distinctive tone – the hard-edged concentration and driving rhythms of an ensemble like the Emerson Quartet gave way to softer playing here – but the shifting, subtle colours were constantly on the move, dissipating into the eerie scampering of spectral figures at the close of the “capricious” second movement.
After the interval Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet swept along irresistibly. As though a culmination of all that had gone before, this performance summed up the Doric String Quartet’s style of subtle lyricism and perfect matching of colour and phrasing, as the first violin again led the musicians in an exploration of the most intimate corners of the score. There was some high-quality quartet playing in this recital and the encore – Sonata III from Haydn’s Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze – was fully deserved.
The Financial Times
Wigmore Hall – December 2012
“Doric String Quartet keeps genre young and vital”
The group projects a sweet, finely blended tone, faultlessly deployed in Haydn’s slow movement, where first violinist Alex Redington found subtle colors to embellish a wistful little melody differently each time it returned.
The Washington Post
Library of Congress – November 2010
…and here was a performance of quite exceptional finesse, so soft-grained in its opening notes that you had to tune your ears to the theme that would later inspire the opening of Verdi’s Requiem, but invariably responsive to those sudden explosions of temper that became a feature of so many of Schubert’s masterpieces.
Perth Schubertiade – October 2010
The English musicians certainly uncovered a plethora of unsuspected voices and colours in its Allegro di molto e scherzando. Leader Alex Redington imbued the Adagio with telling emotion, despite Haydn’s deceptively casual accompaniment. His daring, yet affecting, portamenti in its final bars seemed inevitable. After a Minuet, distinguished from its Trio in both tempo and tone, the Finale revealed that there is nothing like fugal banter to showcase a first-class ensemble.
New Zealand Herald
Auckland Town Hall – September 2010
This recital showed just why the Doric Quartet has recently been attracting so much praise. From the technical standpoint the players are superb, but, beyond that, they blend together as though of one mind – the touchstone of any such group.
Wigmore Hall – April 2010
At a time when new string quartets are two a penny, the Doric Quartet has cleared its first hurdles with impressive ease….Haydn served this week as launching-pad for its New Town Concert in Edinburgh….The finesse of the performance, in which nothing was over-emphasised, spoke for itself. The soft-grained detail of the first movement showed immediately why these players are going places.
Queen’s Hall Edinburgh – March 2009
Making their York debut, last year’s winners of the Japan Osaka Competition, the Doric’s showed that they are today’s finest UK Quartet at a time when we are inundated with brilliant young ensembles….Technically they are superb, their account of Janacék’s highly charged, passionate and deeply emotional Intimate Letters capturing to perfection the enormous mood swings and massive dynamic range. They have the ability to play modern works with such deep understanding, yet can perform Haydn with a period awareness that is becoming all too rare. It is a wonderfully balanced ensemble with an uncommonly fine cello in John Myerscough, and a leader, Alex Redington, whose intonation is spotlessly clean. You only had to listen to their extraordinarily quiet ending to the slow movement in Beethoven’s Harp Quartet to know they are not afraid of taking risks.
Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall – February 2009
The Doric String Quartet perform Haydn’s music with spirit, wit and sophistication at Wigmore Hall. Rating: *****
Haydn and the Doric are a perfect match. This is an ensemble, young but mature of insight, that plays Haydn’s music with spirit, illuminating its blend of wit and sophistication, grace and vivacity, cunning and seemingly effortless spontaneity…. The Doric’s performances, without exaggeration but with just the right degree of elucidation, revealed the music’s extraordinary originality and the way that Haydn can explore the potential of his thematic material so thoroughly yet so artlessly…. Unequivocally, these were performances of terrific panache and perception, seeming to get right under the skin of Haydn’s creative genius.
The Sunday Telegraph
Wigmore Hall – January 2009
The players moved together with absolute unanimity, like a great sea anemone, and this was reflected in the unity of their sound. There was great wisdom and no self-indulgence to the slow movement of the Beethoven, as well as a creativity of sound, with restatements of the same phrase coloured differently each time…Earlier in the programme, the players had given a magical performance of Haydn’s op.76 No.1…I found their performances the most inventive, engaging, moving and beautiful.
Borciani Competition – October 2008
Performing Haydn’s op. 76 no. 1, the English Doric Quartet were distinguished by a rare grace, an abandon to the time of the soul, and a magnificent ability to maintain the “pianissimo”.
Borciani Competition – July 2008
Powerful, passionate and precise…The Doric String Quartet triumphed in their German debut.
Festspiele Mecklenburgh-Vorpommern – July 2008
It was more than just perfect interaction, which formed a foundation for the greatest function of deliberate artistic ambition. It is not often that one can experience dynamic contrast so uncompromisingly sharp as one could in Beethoven’s first born quartet (F op.18/1), rarely can one encounter this work with such dynamic spirit and directness as if taken by surprise…This was an impressive evening.
Festspiele Mecklenburgh-Vorpommern – July 2008
The Doric String Quartet offered playing of refinement and polish throughout the substantial programme of their recital at Wigmore Hall. Since their formation in 1998, the members of this accomplished ensemble have evolved into a streamlined performing unit…If Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet is a more familiar recital item, it sounded newly-minted in the taut, committed performance it received from the Doric Quartet, who launched into the opening Allegro with zest and dedication and delivered playing of a scale and mastery that this great movement calls for.
Wigmore Hall – January/February 2007
This was a really fine concert, interestingly programmed and exceptionally involving in the way it was played. The Doric is a quartet to watch.
The Daily Telegraph
Wigmore Hall – January 2004
Great understanding of the ambivalence and mystery of [Beethoven’s Opus 127... the Dorics] will be among the big names before long.
Manchester Evening News
Chester Festival – July 2004
The exceptional Doric String Quartet – average age 20 -… gave a ravishing and soberingly mature account of Zemlinsky’s Third Quartet.
PLG Series at the Purcell Room – January 2002