Review: Ensembles join forces to present fiery evening of chamber music

Dover Quartet is Joel Link, (violin), Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (viola), Camden Shaw (cello) and Bryan Lee (violin)

Chamberfest’s 25th anniversary season began winding down Wednesday with the penultimate evening concert at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre. The Dover Quartet joined up with members of the Manhattan Chamber Players for a program of high-octane, virtuoso string repertoire that was well-suited their youthful, fiery playing.

The Dovers attacked the opening motif of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 with ferocious vigour. This was compulsive, brooding Beethoven, with his violent temper and intense feelings. At times the quartet’s extreme passions led to playing that was a little wild and even vulgar, and intonation became a casualty of their relentless drive for excitement. But exciting it certainly was, right down to the fast-forward velocity of the closing Allegro bars.

The thrills continued with Shostakovich’s two pieces for string octet, featuring colleagues from the Manhattan String Quartet, which felt like a full-throttle ride in a luxury sports car, all power, speed and sleek, elegant finishing. 

The lush post-romanticism of Webern’s Langsamer Satz showed the Dover quartet’s capacity for sustained patient phrasing and seductive expression. The evening ended with a performance of Britten’s String Quartet No.1 where the irrepressible, witty, appealing outer movements danced around an Andante that was ethereal and meditative, anchored by cellist Camden Shaw’s consoling playing, his lines deep, resonant and as placid as the singing of a Russian monk.

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Natasha Gauthier has been covering classical music in Canada and the US for more than 20 years. She was the classical critic at the Ottawa Citizen, and was one of the founding critics of Montreal's HOUR Magazine. She has served on the classical music and dance juries for the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. You can also read her at her blog, Natasha has a BA in Journalism from Concordia University.