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Dudok String Quartet – 27 April 2022

Perth Chamber Music first invited the Dudok Quartet of Amsterdam over two and a half years ago. Covid intervened, but this week the wait proved well worth it.

Researching deeply into their chosen composers, they had brought along three types of bow. First they gave the audience in St. John’s Kirk Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s Psalm 90, to demonstrate the baroque bow. This was a short, spiritual piece, sounding much like the English Fantazy or In Nomine.

With the transition or straight bow, their performance of Haydn’s Op.20 No.1 in E Flat revealed the richness of that key in companionable interplay. The Menuet had a rustic hop, “having fun in an exploratory way” as they said. Affetuoso e sostenuto, the slow movement, was serene and expressive, contrasting with the speedy and happy chatter which was the Finale.

In Brahms’ happiest Quartet, No.3 in B Flat, on modern bows, the quality of sound and togetherness of this quartet was evident in the bouncy hunting theme of the opening and the more hesitant second theme. They brought out the small, yet telling, changes and gave a blazing coda. Their Leader Judith van Driel had talked of ‘singing with the bow’ and this was what one heard in the Andante, its gestures blossoming in the St John’s acoustic. Muting the other three, the viola had a starring rôle in the Agitato third movement, all anxiety stilled in the beauty of the calm coda. The viola led off in the Variations of the Poco allegretto followed in changes of mood and effect: winsome, exciting, then serene, fireworks ended the piece.

As encore they gave two Shostakovich Preludes arranged by the quartet’s cellist David Faber: the first dramatic with unmistakable Shostakovich sonorities, the second with virtuoso runs, over within 30 seconds.