Categories: Entertainment

Dover Quartet headlines an evening of finesse

FOUR'S COMPANY – Rising stars Dover Quartet have celebrated a whirlwind tour of stops across North America

Listeners want to experience chamber music in new and interesting ways, and Dover Quartet has stepped up to the podium with a refined flair.

Until last year, the ensemble was little known in Alberta. But as winners of major top prizes at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, Dover Quartet was quickly propelled towards international stardom.

Back in August the Philadelphia based ensemble made a triumphant return to the Banff Centre for a concert with celebrated pianist André Laplante.

Due to the joint sponsorship of the Arden Theatre and St. Albert Chamber Music Society, they will debut another electrifying performance for northern audiences on Friday, Oct. 3.

Seen as the fastest rising string quartet in North America, Joel Link (violin), Bryan Lee (violin), Milena Pjaro-van de Stadt (viola) and Camden Shaw (cellist) performed a whirlwind 120 concerts last year.

Shaw, who just celebrated his 25th birthday several days ago noted, “One of the things you realize as you get older is how many people helped you out, and how your own part is so small. I can’t take all the credit.”

Humility aside, some of the world’s most influential critics are ringing endorsements for the richness of their sound.

The New Yorker characterizes them as the “young American string quartet of the moment.” No less complimentary, The Wall Street Journal calls their performances “masterly” and their trademark sound “gutsy and earthy.”

The artists, with an average age of 25 and 26, first met as 19-year-old undergraduates at the venerated Curtis Institute of Music. Early on Shaw and Pjaro-van de Stadt were in an ensemble that was cycling through violinists at a rapid rate.

“The violinists’ interests would wax and wane. They were quite young and didn’t know what they wanted to do, and that’s fair. We were all that way,” said Shaw.

At the same time Link and Lee were performing in another string quartet that was searching for a cello and viola.

“They were topless and we were bottomless and we just merged. People ask if we were put together, but we’re a small school and everyone knows each other and we just joined together.”

One of the ensemble’s most influential mentors, Shumel Askenasi, first violin for the Vermeer Quartet, commented on their natural chemistry.

“So we decided to put our hats in the ring.”

Their success is largely based on shared musical interests and tastes that basically weave a musical conversation. But that doesn’t mean that dissenting opinions are verboten.

“There’s enough variety and differences that we sometimes disagree and grow in new directions. You always need to stay open to new ideas. I’d say we’re 80 per cent agreement and 20 per cent healthy growth.”

Although they submerge their egos at the door, these four bright lights also have strong individual personalities that keep the group powered.

Link, a soccer fan and former player, is hardworking and sincere about music.

“He knows when to rehearse hard and when to let go. He’s a fun, easy-going guy.”

Lee, a basketball follower, instead is Dover Quartet’s techie.

“He’s wonderfully potent with words, quiet but not shy. He says what he really believes, but at the right moment. He’s a man of few and powerful words.”

As the only woman in the ensemble, Pjaro-van de Stadt is an outgoing personality who makes friends easily.

“People are drawn to her. She’s a very warm person. She’s attracted so many fans and there’s something about her that resonates with people. We’ve benefited from a large social network due to the people she’s met.”

As for Shaw, aside from his passion with the cello, he likes to go for hikes or lazily fishing in the middle of a peaceful lake.

Dover Quartet, who first revealed to the world their sparkling musicality at the Banff Centre, competed with nine other top-tier ensembles.

“It was almost like a final round with extremely high level musicians. But in the end, it’s a very subjective thing. The jury was aligned with us and that was wonderful for us.”

What they continue to focus on is a present and deep sound.

“We are equally powerful soloist voices working together to build one voice. Our focus is on rhythm and we hope the audience gets a lot of personal and architectural sensibilities from the rhythmic practices.”

At the Arden concert, Dover Quartet will perform Juno Award winning Canadian composer Vivian Fung’s String Quartet No. 3, a special commission from the Banff Centre. This 10-minute composition is book-ended by Mozart’s Quartet in D Major, K.499 and Dvorak’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 61.

“I really hope people come to the concert. We will have a really nice balanced meal of music.”


Dover Quartet
Friday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $35. Call 780-459-1542 or online at ticketmaster.ca

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.