The Dover Quartet is a group of young people who formed their string quartet several years ago at the Curtis Institute of Music and then rose to prominence by sweeping the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, taking not only the top prize but the three next awards as well. Since Banff, the quartet has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, garnering praise wherever they go. The quartet members are Joel Link, violin; Bryan Lee, violin; Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; and Camden Shaw, cello.
"Tribute: Dover Quartet Plays Mozart" is their debut album, and it couldn't have worked out better for them. They made the album in tribute to their mentors and inspiration, the Guarneri Quartet (1964-2009), who fifty years earlier recorded the same two Mozart quartets included on this disc. In addition, the Dovers have added Mozart's K. 406 Quintet, with none other than a member of the (now disbanded) Guarneri Quartet, Michael Tree, on viola. It's a happy conflux of music and players.
The program begins with the String Quartet No. 22 in B-flat major, K. 589 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). He wrote it in 1790, the second of three string quartets commissioned by and dedicated to the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II. They were also the final quartets Mozart wrote before this death, and the music firm Artaria published them posthumously in 1791.
The "Prussian Quartets" are largely sweet and melodious, which is how the Dover Quartet plays them. One hears in their approach the influence of their advisers, the Guarneri Quartet, whose own style critics often characterized as rich, warm, refined, and smooth yet uniquely individual, spirited, impassioned, and always executed with flawless technique. I would use these same words to describe the Dover Quartet's playing, and, if anything, even more so. The playing is remarkably precise yet vibrantly alive. The one recording of No. 22 I had on hand for comparison was with the Alban Berg Quartet on Teldec, another fine record. To take nothing away from the Alban Berg Quartet, the Dovers seem a degree more lively and the sound a tad more lifelike to me.
|The Dover Quartet|
The last selection is Mozart's String Quintet No. 2 in C minor, K. 406, written in 1787. Mozart transcribed it from his earlier Serenade No. 12 for Wind Octet, K. 388, scoring it for a quartet and an extra viola, here played, as I've said, by the Guarneri's Michael Tree. It would have been just as easy to include the third of the Prussian quartets, but I'm glad they decided to do the quintet with Mr. Tree instead. With every instrument distinctly individual yet blending perfectly as a whole, the playing of the piece makes a touchingly delightful final tribute to the Guarneris and Mozart.
Cedille Records package the disc in a fold-over Digipak case, and they enclose in it a particularly enlightening booklet of notes by Dover member Camden Shaw and others.
Producer and engineer Judith Sherman and editor Bill Maylone made the 24-bit digital recording at the Miriam & Robert Gould Rehearsal Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA in December 2015. As we might have expected from a record company that has been producing so many excellent recordings over the years, this one sounds terrific. The sonics are well defined, the instruments well integrated, the distancing a tad close but response never bright or edgy. First-rate transparency, superb balance, the whole is as natural and realistic as one could want. Another superb recording from Cedille.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: