Cer­tainly the Dover’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion was marked by clearly plot­ted phrases and care­fully sculpted artic­u­la­tion, but the group’s trade­mark is re­ally its sonor­ity.

Pasatiempo - - LISTEN UP - Life, From My

The Dover Quar­tet got only one slot in which to ap­pear as the dis­tinc­tive en­sem­ble it is, with no ex­tra col­leagues. They chose an­other Czech work for its half-hour in the spot­light, Smetana’s Quar­tet No. 1, per­formed on Aug. 18. This au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal work, ti­tled works its way through chap­ters of hap­pi­ness and sad­ness, with the first move­ment (as the com­poser ex­plained) de­pict­ing “my youth­ful lean­ings to­ward art, the Ro­man­tic at­mos­phere, the in­ex­press­ible yearn­ing for some­thing I could nei­ther ex­press nor de­fine, and also a kind of warn­ing about my fu­ture for­tune.” The Dovers cap­tured all of that, im­bu­ing the move­ment with a ner­vous melan­choly that was a splen­did match for their es­sen­tial sound. The sec­ond move­ment, a sort of polka that “brings to my mind the joy­ful days of youth,” skipped from phrase to phrase with com­pelling mo­men­tum, lightly tipsy through the pre­sumed con­sump­tion of Pil­sner, with the cello even let­ting loose a mirth­ful mu­si­cal belch to­ward the end. The third move­ment — “the hap­pi­ness of my first love, the girl who later be­came my wife” — was a study in ten­derly nu­anced whis­per­ing. The fi­nale in­volves “the discovery that I could treat na­tional el­e­ments in mu­sic” and Smetana’s rev­el­ing in this path un­til the mu­sic was stilled by the sud­den on­set of deaf­ness, sym­bol­ized here by a sus­tained high note from the first vi­o­lin, an evo­ca­tion of tin­ni­tus. At that point, the melan­choly mu­sic from the quar­tet’s be­gin­ning resur­faces, the mys­tery of its fore­bod­ing ex­plained.

This was a top-drawer per­for­mance. Cer­tainly the Dover’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion was marked by clearly plot­ted phrases and care­fully sculpted artic­u­la­tion, but the group’s trade­mark is re­ally its sonor­ity. Shrill­ness is never al­lowed to in­trude on the vi­o­lins’ tone — even the “tin­ni­tus note” was in­vested with a de­gree of beauty — and the tim­bres of the two vi­o­lins are matched to an un­canny de­gree. In­gra­ti­at­ing as the “na­tion­al­ist” pas­sages of the fourth move­ment were, the Dover didn’t pos­sess quite the na­tive spirit of the great­est Czech string quar­tets — the Talich, the Panocha, the Pražák, or the long-gone, greatly revered Smetana Quar­tet — but they came close to it. With its bur­nished patina, its in­bred el­e­gance, and its nat­u­ral­ness of mu­si­cal ex­pres­sion, the Dover is emerg­ing as the most Cen­tral Euro­pean-sound­ing of Amer­i­can quar­tets. Of all the mu­sic I heard at Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val this sum­mer, the Dover Quar­tet’s per­for­mance of Smetana’s First Quar­tet was hands down the finest.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.