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Dover Quartet wrings emotion from Beethoven

Members of the Dover Quartet are all fairly young, having graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music (where they originally played together as the Old City String Quartet) in 2010. They’ve risen quickly into the upper ranks of their profession and have recently garnered the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant for 2017.

Their venture into the first pair of the Slee Beethoven Quartet Cycle’s six concerts for the year came off without a hitch Wednesday in Lippes Concert Hall at the University at Buffalo, but the third one -- originally scheduled for March 6 -- was called off due to damaging winds which toppled trees, damaged houses, and caused flights into Buffalo to be rerouted or eliminated. (It has been rescheduled for April 24, 2017.)

Luckily, the weather was better for Wednesday night’s performances and that boded well for those in attendance because they got to hear masterful playing of exceptional works of art – one early work (op. 18, no. 6) and two stunning scores (op. 95 and op. 132) that take the promise of the young Beethoven and add the seasoning of life’s trials and tribulations to create mature masterpieces which still inspire audiences more than a century later.

The program for these concerts has always followed the same pattern in terms of what works are played when – a concept assuring the yearly habitué of the concerts a rough certainty about what they’ll hear but not necessarily how the music on the sheets will be translated for the ear/heart.

The concert was set up in time traveling mode. There was a statement by a maturing artist followed up by a flashback to their beginnings and a coda that reinforced Beethoven’s oft-times tortured genius.

The Dovers wrung every last bit of emotion out of the F minor, op. 95 quartet – the appropriately nicknamed “Serioso.” The opening Allegro led into a deceptively sedate bit of play that quickly became tinged with uncertainty, especially in the brief section interplay between violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and second violinist Bryan Lee. There were hints of beauty amid the disquiet throughout the score.

The semi-youthful B-flat major quartet from op. 18 came next and showcased a burgeoning intellect that combined a fierce personality with nods to the work done by his musical forefathers, Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

By the time intermission passed and the group dove into the Colossus of the A minor (op. 132) quartet, the audience and the musicians were primed for the best, most moving performance of an already memorable concert.

There were few musical emotions that the composer didn’t wear on his metaphorical sleeve and the Dover Quartet made the kind of music that illuminated and inspired at the same time. Violinist Joel Link was spot on and Camden Shaw’s cello playing meshed perfectly with Pajaro-van de Stadt’s viola lines, and Lee’s playing helped knit the whole into a perfect sonic tapestry.

Yes. They’re definitely worth seeing again.

The Dover Quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday in Lippes Concert Hall at UB.

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