HAYDN String Quartets Op 20 (complete)
Papa Haydn. Is he, in today’s pejorative meaning, pretty close to the image of a simpleton? The Doric Quartet say differently; and to hear how, sample the first-movement Allegro con spirito of No 3, of music that lurches, hesitates and restarts, from musicians who feel a personal struggle portraying it through varied bowing and a state of tension that remains stretched even during silences. They confront the intractable; and exempt only the outer movements of this work from second-half repeats. Thus do unusual endings surprise when heard only once.
Thoughtfulness is uppermost. Allied to precision in articulation is a flexibility in the scansion and shaping of phrases, of notes timed through a remarkable understanding of rubato, of a range of expressive resilience that gives even the smallest of episodes in a long line their own character without distorting structure or disturbing flow, eg speed combining with jest in the Allegro di molto e scherzando of No 6. Stay to experience Haydn’s resourceful use of colour, the Minuet bright, the Trio – without second violin – slower and subdued, played sopra una corda (on one string), its ambience intensified by startlingly different tonal hues; which brings matters round to the nub of these works – the slow movements, be it the Affettuoso e sostenuto of No 1, the Capriccio of No 2 or the Adagio of No 5, each one divined to be of glowing or grave beauty. And this is Vol 1. Hold your breath for the rest.