Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Dover Quartet and friends close CMNW's Summer Fest with a pair of stunning quintets

The Dover Quartet:
 Joel Link, Milena Parajo-van de Stadt, Camden Shaw, Bryan Lee.
Chamber Music Northwest closed out David Shifrin's penultimate season as artistic director with a pair of magnificent quintets, one by Dvořák and one by Schubert. Jeffrey Kahane joined the Dover Quartet on the piano for the Dvořák, and Peter Wiley added his cello to the Schubert in the second half.

The Dvořák opened thunderous--towering and grandiose. The movement was very evocative, as is the composer's wont. Galloping at first, it evolved into a filigree wherein Kahane made the piano tinkle like a glass harmonica. It soon became a swelling ocean squall, which disspated into sudden calm. Kahane's octave work was subtly brilliant.

The Dumka was full of pathos, like a melancholy folk-tune as Milena Parajo-van de Stadt elicited a handsome helden-baritone recital from her viola. As the movement turned into an up-tempo exultation, the recapitulation became a sad sigh of relief. Or was it a sigh of grief, with every arrival like a communal exultation of mourning. In the finale, the piano sometimes over-balanced the strings, and not everything lined up perfectly; it felt like it took a while for the symmetry to align.

The Schubert featured  seamless unisons between the two cellists as the group embarked on a grand idyll. The pizzicato moving bass line from Wiley's instrument added an extra dimension to the texture of the string quartet. It was a perfect example of why quintets are so fun, and this one was delightful to listen to.  The perfectly smooth chordal section of the adagio was mesmerizing, like a paean to Morpheus. The group allowed it to grow organically in intensity and urgency. Wiley's cello functioned like a ceaseless commentary on the goings-on of the Dover Quartet's strings. The magnificently choreographed arpeggiating pizzicatos between Wiley and the violins felt like a long farewell. The third movement opened like a crisp snow to break the somnolence of the adagio, and they rendered the finale as a Tzigane dance, ferocious and rich.

It has been a true pleasure listening to the Dover Quartet at this year's festival. The depth of insight and bewildering array of styles and techniques they put on display are reminders (if such were really needed) why it's so worthwhile and important to support endeavors like CMNW's Summer Festival. Each concert is an astounding adventure, whether one knows the work intimately or is being exposed to it for the first time.

Not for the first time (nor probably the last) I reiterate that my summer just doesn't feel complete without CMNW--it's as integral to the season as ripe August blackberries or a walk in the cool Willamette valley starlight. And with this kind of quality, it will no doubt be here for a long, long time.

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