Haydn: The Six String Quartets, Op 64

Reviewed on Mon 07 May, 2018

It’s a different sort of brilliance. It’s a different sort of feeling, too, from musicians with no rigid preconceptions.

Prepare for the new, which begins with the first movement of No 2. The tempo mark varies according to edition, either Allegro spiritoso or Allegro spirituoso. The Doric Quartet opt for the latter, and by using ‘elastic time’ and ‘tempos of feeling’ (Beethoven’s terms) unearth a vein of spirituality that neither the Angeles Quartet (Philips) nor The Lindsays (ASV) even consider. More arresting is another first movement, that of No 4, the Angeles prosaically literal in their understanding of Allegro con brio, the Doric ignoring face value – and at a slower, flexible tempo intuitively revealing rhythmic inflections and subjective depths that set Haydn aglow. It’s a different sort of brilliance. It’s a different sort of feeling, too, from musicians with no rigid preconceptions like, for instance, a belief that both Menuetts and Trios ought to be at the same speed. Some are, some are not. They are a reminder of Professor Peter Johnson’s words: “To do justice to a great composer’s work, the performer needs a strong, independent musical voice, able to meet the interpretative challenges the composer offers or which the performer may discover in a reading of the work.” This is the Doric’s metier throughout; and exemplified in No 6, a work of substantial reach and power with the Trio played twice, and interpreted, like the others, as an affirmation that, unless every nuance, inflection and item of emotional rhetoric that cannot be notated is discerned, felt and reproduced, any musical text is a dead letter.
–Nalen Anthoni