To the elderly gentleman who followed the Debussy Quartet in his score: why? I cannot imagine how he was nourished by reading this aural feast, for here was a performance as precise and eloquent as we have come to expect from the Doric String Quartet. Straight from the players’ lion-sized upbeat sniff every note found its place. Chamber music, yes, but as a harmony of sounds it was a symphony.

Doric String Quartet
© George Garnier

Throughout an incisive first movement that grounded its vitality in the lower registers, it was the cello of John Myerscough that led the way. He did the same in the playful pizzicato of the Assez vif second, with throat-clearance interjections from Alex Redington’s first violin that were as coarse as Debussy intended. This was the Doric at its best, and the sprinkling of fairydust at the movement’s end made my toes spread with delight. Time stood still in the Andantino (no one does ppp quite like the Dorics) while the Finale, essentially a fantasia on the opening movement, was rendered with pure passion.

The tragically short-lived Guillaume Lekeu – a late starter in music at age 18; dead by food poisoning at 23 – left a small but vital legacy of chamber music that is gradually finding an audience. Certainly, the advocacy by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien of the Violin Sonata, composed in 1892 for his fellow-countryman Eugène Ysaӱe, was wonderfully fervent. It is gorgeous music, lyrical yet rhapsodic and unmistakably influenced by Lekeu’s teacher, César Franck. There are moments in the four-movement work where his footprint would fit exactly into that of the senior composer; yet stylistically he is the freer and more florid of the two, with a more dialectical interplay between the two instruments.

Ibragimova and Tiberghien made complete sense of the fascinating Lento movement in which the score sets their instruments drifting like tectonic plates, now close or in unison, now far apart, and the musicians’ partnership had the skill to convince us it all hangs together. Only in the animated finale does the composer’s inspiration lift as the weight of notes crushes some of the glow in his music.

Cédric Tiberghien
© Benjamin Ealovega

Chausson’s big-boned Concert in D major for violin, piano and string quartet allowed the two partnerships to merge. It’s a mutable work: on one level a violin concerto in which the piano fleshes out the missing orchestral texture, on another a double concerto with strings, on yet another a piano concerto with quintet accompaniment. At various points it’s all these things and that is part of its charm.

In the expansive opening movement it seemed odd for Tiberghien to be tucked behind the other musicians, for Chausson’s piano writing often hits Lisztian proportions. The quest for an integrated sound picture clearly took precedence over virtuosity and spectacle.

Alina Ibragimova
© Eva Vermandel

The central movements tingled with energy. The lilting Sicilienne is no lullaby – it rocks by on way too much caffeine – but the third movement is a (coffee-induced?) nightmare, exhilaratingly baleful right from its doggedly chromatic opening. Anyone who views Chausson as a docile French romantic should hear the Dorics and friends slice through his dark side. Thence to the finale, and showtime. It’s a piano-versus-the-rest movement where string interplay progresses like interlocking spurs – except that here, more than ever, we could have done with a bigger splash from Tiberghien. The work overall is a 40-minute joyride despite its odd designation: not a concerto but a ‘Concert’. It fell to the audience to add the ‘O’ as they cheered.

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