NEW LEBANON, N.Y. -- Every year seems to bring a new string quartet (and new pianist, violinist, etc.) into the enchanted circle of stardom. This year's entrant is the Dover String Quartet, which has been mopping up prizes and happy reviews, culminating in a sweep of the prestigious Banff string quartet competition last year.
The foursome of 25-year-olds opened Tannery Pond's concert season Saturday night in a program that highlighted the youthful attributes of energy and enthusiasm in works by Haydn and Dvorak. You could marvel at the technical and interpretive prowess -- the accuracy, unanimity and vision -- yet still wonder what these players could do in heavies like Beethoven and Brahms.
It's a paradox of our time that while audiences for classical concerts are shrinking, conservatories and schools are turning out ever more brilliant musicians.
Founded in 2008 at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Dover plays with a refined tone that sounded just a bit thin in the old tannery. First violinist Joel Link set the standard with a tone of rare sweetness and purity. (A high achiever: The program bio quoted him as saying, at 3-and-a-half, "When is it my turn to play?")
Haydn and Dvorak are candy in the pieces played Saturday. A taste of the Dover in sober mood came mid-program in Samuel Barber's only string quartet.
The Curtis-taught Barber is a kind of totem for the Dover, which takes its name from his song "Dover Beach.
It was a revelation, as cellist Camden Shaw promised in pointed remarks from the stage, to hear the adagio, made famous in its lush orchestral guise as the Adagio for Strings, now reduced to essentials. The viola part, beautifully played by Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, came through with a beguiling glow. The players managed to keep their cool during the finale when an apparently malfunctioning wall fan set off a jarring racket.
(Barber didn't know what to do after the adagio, so he tacked on a brief reprise of the first movement as a finale. In his similarly romantic Violin Concerto, he retained an anticlimactic original finale.)
Suavely played, Haydn's Opus 76, No. 1, and Dvorak's Piano Quintet No. 2, with Alon Goldstein at the keyboard, were notable for rhythmic drive and nicely plotted dips into darker moods amid the prevailing good spirits. It was a pleasure to hear the Dvorak quintet played without the piano taking over, but Goldstein seemed not to have caught up to his partners in spirit or rhythmic spring.
Dvorak does ramble on in this work, but the whirling finale virtually danced off the stage. At second violin, Bryan Lee completes the group. Now, what can these high achievers do in other branches of the repertoire?