Pasa Re­view Dover Quar­tet

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — James M. Keller

Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, Sept. 28

The Dover Quar­tet might want to ac­quire a time share in town, so of­ten have its mem­bers been traips­ing through th­ese parts. No com­plaint; this is one of the finest Amer­i­can string quar­tets on the scene, a group that sets the bar high when it comes to rock-solid mu­si­cal fun­da­men­tals and in­ter­pre­ta­tion that is at once taste­ful and imag­i­na­tive. The sil­ver-toned four­some brought this year’s Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val to a close on Aug. 21, and just five weeks later they re­turned to the stage of the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter in a con­cert jointly spon­sored by the fes­ti­val and Per­for­mance Santa Fe. They were joined by dou­ble-bass player Edgar Meyer, who is among the world’s lead­ing prac­ti­tion­ers of that mas­sive in­stru­ment.

The pro­gram opened with a sparkling per­for­mance of the Diver­ti­mento in D ma­jor (K.136/125a), one of three such works Mozart wrote in his na­tive Salzburg in early 1772, about when he was fif­teen go­ing on six­teen. It is very likely that it would have been per­formed then by an en­sem­ble com­pris­ing two vi­o­lins, vi­ola, and dou­ble bass, a group­ing some­times called the “diver­ti­mento quar­tet” or “Salzburg quar­tet.” Here, Meyer joined all four of the Dover’s play­ers, such that the low­est line was dou­bled by cello and bass. This could eas­ily have yielded bot­tom-heavy re­sults, but the quar­tet’s cel­list, Cam­den Shaw, ap­proached his part with re­straint, ba­si­cally adding def­i­ni­tion to at­tacks with­out skew­ing the bal­ance. The read­ing con­veyed all the vim and vigor one could ask for.

Shaw and Meyer pro­ceeded on to a cu­rios­ity: the Duetto for Cello and Dou­ble Bass by Rossini, who com­posed it in 1824 for an af­flu­ent ama­teur cel­list in Lon­don who as­pired to play a duet with Domenico Dragonetti, the most renowned dou­ble-bass vir­tu­oso of that time. Rossini was al­ways up for a hearty laugh, and in­deed there is a good deal of opera buffa inthis piece. But it doesn’t trade solely in guf­faws; it also mines both the lyri­cal and col­oratura pos­si­bil­i­ties of the two low-pitched in­stru­ments. On the page, the piece is black with notes, but th­ese in­stru­men­tal­ists han­dled it with con­sum­mate vir­tu­os­ity. Shaw played el­e­gantly and with a light touch on the florid up­per line. Es­pe­cially in the mid­dle move­ment, a re­laxed

An­dante molto, he proved to be a true bel-canto cel­list. The Dover four­some, unas­sisted, per­formed Bartók’s String Quar­tet No. 1, the least of­ten en­coun­tered of his six. Com­posed in 1908-1909, this spec­i­men of turn-of-the-cen­tury, post-Wag­ne­r­ian yearn­ing was the work of a very se­ri­ous young man — one, more­over, who had just had his heart bro­ken. Bartók had not yet mas­tered the sure-footed pac­ing or rhyth­mic verve of his en­su­ing quar­tets, but even this work of­fers glimpses of his fu­ture mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly through some melodic Mag­yarisms that are most pro­nounced in the last move­ment. The Dover’s hand­some sound served the piece’s febrile qual­ity, but a ju­di­cious in­fu­sion of grit­ti­ness might ul­ti­mately strengthen the case for what can be a me­an­der­ing work, rem­i­nis­cent of slightly ear­lier cham­ber pieces by Schoen­berg and Zem­lin­sky. To con­clude, all five mu­si­cians teamed up for a com­po­si­tion by the evening’s dou­ble bassist, Meyer’s Quin­tet for Strings. A full-scale, four-move­ment piece, it proved pleas­ant and en­ter­tain­ing. Its in­sis­tently pen­ta­tonic melodies re­called Dvoˇrák, its “wide-open-spa­ces” tex­tures saluted Co­p­land, and its fun­da­men­tal har­monic sta­sis could evoke Hovhaness — all this in ad­di­tion to touches of jazz and blue­grass. Meyer is ob­vi­ously a mas­ter of string fig­u­ra­tion, which kept the work’s sur­face lively and en­gag­ing, and — no sur­prise — he pro­vided im­pres­sive ex­po­sure for the dou­ble bass, which part he han­dled with sur­pass­ing ap­ti­tude.

The four pieces had an agree­able flow, adding up to a con­cert of sonic and stylis­tic va­ri­ety. The au­di­ence was left in some con­fu­sion by the short­com­ings of the printed pro­gram, which found space for 2,000 words of man­ager-sup­plied bi­ogra­phies about the per­form­ers but not a sin­gle syl­la­ble about the pieces per­formed, apart from their ti­tles. List­ing the in­di­vid­ual move­ments of a piece, de­noted by rel­e­vant head­ings, is a bare min­i­mum for a printed pro­gram at a clas­si­cal mu­sic con­cert. An ex­cep­tion could be made if per­form­ers chose in­stead to share this in­for­ma­tion ver­bally, but they did no speak­ing on this evening. Lack­ing that in­for­ma­tion, lis­ten­ers are bound to re­spond as they did here; they ren­dered ex­tended ap­plause af­ter the first move­ment of the Rossini Duetto un­der the as­sump­tion that the piece was over — when, in fact, it still had two fur­ther move­ments to go. When the clap­ping sub­sided and the play­ers con­tin­ued with the piece, there was a cer­tain amount of head-scratch­ing in the hall. Of course, the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of any con­cert is to pur­vey good mu­sic well played, and in that re­gard the evening was a com­plete suc­cess.

This is one of the finest Amer­i­can string quar­tets on the scene, a group that sets the bar high when it comes to rock-solid mu­si­cal fun­da­men­tals and in­ter­pre­ta­tion that is at once taste­ful and imag­i­na­tive.

Dover Quar­tet

Edgar Meyer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.