Freezing temperatures on Tuesday evening didn’t stop the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans Music Hall from filling up as the Dover Quartet took the stage in the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s distinguished - and 93 years strong - concert series.
The musicians have won their fair share of accolades in the group’s brief history including the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award. They’ve played in the area before - most notably in the Slee Beethoven Cycle earlier this year - and their appearance at Kleinhans was eagerly anticipated.
It wasn’t a terribly adventurous program in some ways but it was hard to find fault with their approach. Older chestnuts like the first numbered string quartets by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (six previous performances in the series) and Bela Bartok (10 priors) anchored the evening. A recent score by Richard Danielpour opened the performance.
Various folk music heritages were the connecting strings for the three works. For Tchaikovsky, the second movement Andante cantabile referenced a Ukrainian tune, while the third section of Bartok’s quartet reflected the composer’s research into Hungarian folk melodies and all four sections from Danielpour’s work were heavily influenced by his study of Iranian musical traditions.
Danielpour’s “Four Miniatures for String Quartet” was commissioned for the Dover Quartet, had its world premiere in May and got a warm reception from the Buffalo audience.
All the movements reflected, for the most part, danceable rhythms with a world music slant. “The Somnambulist’s Dance,” “Mirror Dance” and the pensive “Lullaby” ranged from spikey, to pulsating, to pensive and thoughtful. The opening section (“Tango”) spun away from the initial Argentine roots of the title into a world anchored by instruments like the nai, the tanbur and the setar.
The Tchaikovsky piece was as lovely and pleasant as one could expect from a composer whose oeuvre encompasses some of the most beautiful and audience-friendly scores of the past couple of centuries. On the whole it was a delightful follow-up to the Danielpour score and closed out the first half of the concert on an upswing.
After the intermission, the Bartok quartet filled up the balance of the program. This is where the Dover Quartet really shined, displaying all of the emotionally powerful technique necessary to make a convincing argument for the work. When compared to the other music heard that evening, the worldview was a bit more challenging and the composer’s treatment of the folk tune at the core of the music’s finale more energetic and bracing.
On the whole, the concert was a success as proven by the standing ovation afforded the musicians as the final notes charged into a triumphal ending.
Next up in the series: the Calidore String quartet will be performing quartets by Haydn, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn on Jan. 16. Should be another good showing for the Chamber Music Society.