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Review of the Dudok Quartet of Amsterdam concert for Musicinverness, part of the Chamber Music Springfest 22

By Margaret Chrystall


Dudok Quartet


What looked initially like a kinetic metal sculpture behind the Dudok Quartet of Amsterdam at their concert for Musicinverness, part of the Chamber Music Springfest 22, proved to be a stand with three complete sets of bows.

The Dudok Quartet. Picture: Feiko Koster
The Dudok Quartet. Picture: Feiko Koster

In their witty and informative introductions to the music, the players emphasised the degree to which they allowed their various bows – Baroque bows for the earliest repertoire, ‘transitional’ bows for the classical music and ‘modern’ bows for the romantic-era music – to inform their stylistic approach to the music of the different periods. This was fully borne out by an utterly engaging and illuminating concert. It opened with a concoction of Renaissance and Baroque music by Gabrieli, Palestrina and Rameau arranged into a proto-string quartet by members of the group. The idea sounds implausible, but the quality of the music and the superbly idiomatic playing, devoid of vibrato and with wonderfully light bowing, proved a compelling curtain-raiser. It was a particular treat for me to hear the Gabrieli Sonata XXI con tre violini actually on strings as its composer intended, having previously performed it on recorders with Coronach in Pluscarden Abbey as an interlude in one of our choral concerts there.

Moving to their transitional bows, the ensemble next gave us a wonderfully fresh and imaginative account of the first of Haydn’s op 20 Quartets. I am old enough to remember when the chamber music of Haydn served as ‘a bit of a rest’ for performers and audience – thankfully these lazy days are long since over, and it was a treat to see these young performers constantly interpreting and seeking every nuance in Haydn’s rich score. Having recorded these works commercially, the group knows them intimately and even movements such as the rather uneventful Affettuoso e sostenuto proved to have a chorale-like intensity in this intelligent and authoritative reading.

Like Haydn’s op 20 no 1, Brahms’ op 67 Quartet is sometimes regarded as a ‘poor cousin’, but its quiet authority was wonderfully brought out in the Dudok Quartet’s masterly reading. Once again a relatively subdued Andante proved to have hidden depths, while Marie-Louise de Jong’s delicious viola tones brought the Agitato intermezzo dramatically to life. All four of these musicians demonstrated a profound understanding of the music they were playing, and in addition to each being consummate masters of their own instruments, they generated a superlative sense of ensemble. This was a world-class concert, and while it deserved a much larger audience, rapturous applause from those of us who were privileged to be there elicited a foretaste of the group’s next recording project in the form of a charming encore, an arrangement for string quartet of a Shostakovich Piano Prelude.

D James Ross

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