Doric String Quartet – Mendelssohn: String Quartets, Vol. 1

doricI’ve written about these fetching and first-rate four before. You could ask why I’m writing about them again. Who knows? Maybe you think I’m playing quartet favourites. Well … ya, I totally am. No shit? It’s kinda what you’re supposed to fucking do. There are lots of quartets out there. But these guys get me more classically tumescent than a coked up conductor with an extra thick rehearsal baton. Alex, Jonathan, Hélène, and John play with a distinct subtlety I rarely find. They don’t throw down their interpretation like they’re the hottest of shits. They blend together ceaselessly. They don’t pusillanimously play like pussycats in a procrastinative playpen pillow fight. They make badass and aggressive decisions. They slow Mendelssohn down to the point of painful. And when “No. 6 in F Minor, Op. 80” drops? Hot damn. My spine tingles like I was submerged in a frozen lake. They hit all the heights without any blurriness. Their notes aren’t smeared all over the fucking place like it was done up by some extroverted and overly expressive potty training infant. Everything on this album is clear as clean creek water.

So, why am I writing about Doric String Quartet? Because Doric String Quartet can fucking get it.

Mendelssohn wrote six string quartets in his lifetime (Straight up? He actually composed seven. Four were later duct taped together and were then published after he peaced the fuck out). Doric picks three for this album (1, 6, and 5). If you listen closely to the first, you’ll hear Beethoven’s badass influence (you can even do a neat side-by-side with this intro to Beethoven’s Harp Quartet, Op. 74). From the first fucking note, you know Doric is here for keeps. With the amount of emotion and intent these motherfuckers put into each bowed line you can’t help but put your own intent in there as well. Shit’s gorgeous.

The 6th is probably the most famous. Mendelssohn was, understandably, a total dickhead after his sister died. Cause of this, the piece is a hot ball of fiery passion. It’s the last he wrote before taking his own geo-exodus. He titled it, “Requiem for Fanny”. I’ve often heard the 6th played with too much heat. Shit comes out like a series of unlubed strippers racing down bone dry metal poles during an arid summer in the desert. Doric slows it down and clears things up. In the end, it comes out like the greatest of spicy food. Sure, it’s spicy as all fuck. Hot damn it’s spicy! But it’s not so spicy that you can’t taste subtlety. In fact, the heat compliments and brings out all the other flavours. You can hear Mendelssohn’s intense frustration over death alongside his grief, and the depression he was in from being old and so unexpectedly alone. Now, that’s some good fucking playing.

I could go on. I could wax poetic about the Doric String Quartet until the cows repurchase their childhood cottage. But, like with any good piece of music, the best thing you can do is to go listen and make your own interpretation. You can dislike everything Doric and hate me with everything you’ve got. Hell, I’d fucking love you for it. I want you to scream at me from atop a mountain and say, “No, you ignorant blog-writing bastard! The Elias String Quartet plays it best!” Just, please, don’t say this shit is “fine”, “okay”, or “good”. The last thing the classical world needs is another sleepy attendant languorously baying out an unenthusiastic “Bravo” to a stage filled with performers giving everything they’ve fucking got. Find your favourites, pick a quartet or two, and love them. These motherfuckers deserve it.


 

 

3 thoughts

  1. The only genre I know less about than classical is metal (not that that’s particularly stopped me enjoying either, per se). While I’m a little dubious about ‘definitively’ choosing a fave string quartet, I reckon this’ll be a good project for me to undertake to increase my classical knowledge. So, I’ll report back in a few months with my findings. In the meantime, do you have any Debussy recs? With the little I know, he stands as a favorite; I’ve heard the recording of his, Ravel and Faure’s quartets by the Quatuor Ebene, but I’m wondering about any non-quartet recs you might have. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Non-quartet? Dude, you ask the best and most difficult questions and I fucking love it.

      For Piano? Debussy playing Debussy is pretty fucking good. But, damn, Michelangeli is reeeeeally fucking up there. I’d argue that he’s the diamond cut standard on piano interpretations next to Gieseking. These motherfuckers have got Debussy steez on lock. But, I also love that Pascal Rogé and Claudio Arrau’s chops on this.

      For Symphony? I’m a bit of a prick. Lots of folks love the older interpretations even though the recording equipment is not as good. I can appreciate it, but it’s not the shit I put on. You can’t go wrong with Haitink’s Nocturnes. It’s fucking beautiful. And I think Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony has something special.

      I look forward to hearing of your venture into classical music. I didn’t grow up with this kinda shit either. The cons of this are apparent. BUT you get the upper hand by not giving a fuck what the “people” say. You just trust your ear. It’s so much fun to dive into it. I feel like I’m learning every day. It’s the greatest place to be in my opinion.

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      1. Thanks Papa Brightly! I had no idea Debussy had done recordings of his own stuff – I remember this being a mental barrier to my early appreciation of classical music, not really knowing how to sort or trust the different interpretations. Reminds me of this quote from a Kamasi Washington interview; ‘My understanding of classical music was very limited. They would tell me to go get certain pieces of music and they wanted me to get certain performances of that music and I was like, “Oh man, what’s the difference? It’s the same music!” And they were like, “Oh no. There’s a huge difference.” I remember the first time I heard that record of Stravinsky conducting his own music and it was like, oh wow, this is how this is supposed to go!’ It was a mental block, no doubt, but as I got into jazz, where standards and reinterpretations are so important, hip-hop, where sampling is so foundational, and Jeff Buckley, for whom being a fan eventually consists of obsessing over dozens and dozens of voice-and-guitar covers, I shed my more rockist tendencies about ‘real’ versions.
        I’ll keep you posted on my classical music travels.

        Liked by 1 person

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