Haydn and Beethoven CD reviews


HAYDN: STRING QUARTETS Op.33 / Doric String Quartet ★★★★★

Haydn said his Op.33 was written "in a new and special way" – so prepare to be amused, surprised and discombobulated. The Doric String Quartet hit all Haydn's targets in the bull's eye. The B minor quartet's opening wrong foots us: What key are we in? Is the cellist playing the wrong notes? The Dorics play the repeat and make it sound even stranger second time around. The E flat Major quartet is nicknamed "The Joke" – no wonder. The scherzo sounds reassuringly like old fashioned minuet but in the trio a folk band suddenly appears with a drunken first fiddle, playing outrageous swoops before dozing off – violinist Alex Redington having a great time. The final movement stops abruptly or does it silently carry on, the musical equivalent of an M.C. Escher never-ending staircase? The Doric's wittily seductive playing is showcased by Chandos's outstanding engineering in Potton Hall's perfect chamber music acoustic.

Norman Stinchcombe


After the furore about Rule Britannia at the last night of the Proms, Beethoven's 5 Variations on Thomas Arne's tune is a pleasurable relief. It demonstrates his quirky humour and brilliance in exploiting every nuance, nook and cranny of a theme – a rumbling bass for its maritime nature, unexpected lyricism and a cheeky surprise coda. "I hope your reaction at the end will be to laugh!" writes Hewitt – I did. His 7 Variations on "God Save the King" are just as good. The 32 Variations on an original theme in C minor gets a performance from Hewitt to match her estimation of the work – "a fabulous piece". She's tremendously imposing in the vehement Variation 6 and mellifluous in the solemn dance of Variation 12. Beethoven set out to dazzle in the dancing Eroica Variations Op.35 and his pianistic capers are scintillating in Hewitt's hands. The Jesus-Christus Kirke recording is immaculate.

Norman Stinchcombe

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