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Dover Quartet makes a lasting impression with music by composer who inspired its name

Posted 12:18pm on Monday, Mar. 06, 2017

The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth has become one of the prime presenters of fine music in the city. Saturday afternoon’s concert in the Piano Pavilion was one more confirmation of that.

Performing was a young and remarkably talented ensemble, the Dover Quartet, whose members are violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-Van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw. They combine technical security with an impressive knack for musical drama.

There’s more significance in the ensemble’s name than is apparent at first glance. The four musicians have named themselves after a musical composition, Samuel Barber’s “Dover Beach” for medium voice and string quartet. Barber’s work is an elegiac setting of a haunting poem by Matthew Arnold.

What ties the young musicians to the work is that they are, in part, a product of the Curtis Institute of Music, which is also the alma mater of Barber.

There was no performance of “Dover Beach” on Saturday (that requires a baritone or mezzo-soprano as well as a string quartet), but there was a Barber work, the String Quartet No. 1. The quartet gave an eloquent performance of this composition, whose molto adagio section has morphed into the “Adagio for Strings,” one of the most performed American musical works.

There was an abrupt change of atmosphere with the quartet “From My Life” by Bedrich Smetana, who, like Beethoven, continued to compose after going deaf. This energetic if sad work was given a compelling performance by the Dover Quartet (a special nod to Pajaro-Van de Stadt, whose viola was a powerful presence throughout the afternoon’s performances).

Another striking change of mood came with Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 2, whose “Recitative & Romance” movement was given a particularly striking interpretation by violinist Link and his colleagues. Shostakovich’s music is not easy, but it does make a lasting impression.

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