String quartet returns to perform Beethoven String Quartet Cycle

Dover Quartet performance third part of Beethoven Quartet Cycle on February 28, 2017 in Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

On Tuesday, Feb. 28,, the Dover Quartet took the stage at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts once more to perform another all-Beethoven program. Their last appearance was in November and the audience greeted them with gracious applause after their three-month absence.

Originally formed in October 2008, while all of its members were studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, the Dover Quartet is comprised of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, as well as violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and cellist Camden Shaw.

Since winning the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, the young string quartet has been one of the most sought after ensembles in the world. They have received considerable praise for their refined sound and musical maturity.

The first half of the concert featured a performance of Beethoven’s Opus 18 String Quartet No. 6, also known as “La Malinconia,” meaning melancholy in Italian. This quartet is relatively progressive among Beethoven’s earlier works, with unique textures and harmonies that make it stand out from the others of Opus 18.

The first movement opens with a boisterous theme through which the Dover Quartet seemed to announce their energy and excitement for the evening. The fourth movement features two contrasting sections – a slow, intricate opening, torturously restrained, which lead into a fast and frolicking fugue section in which the instruments imitated each other as in a round.

“They really seemed to sync in with each other,” Dr. Peter Kaminsky, Professor of Music Theory in the School of Fine Arts, said after the first half. “To me, it was like a show tune. You know, anything you can do, I can do better. That’s the whole opening of the first movement. That kind of thing goes on all the way through.”

“I think they should jump when they play that part,” Dr. Glenn Stanley, Professor of Music History, said. He then gave an enthusiastic demonstration, singing the opening motive and jumping up and down where he stood.

The second half of the program was by far the more powerful and anticipated, however. The Dover Quartet returned to the stage to perform Beethoven’s Quartet in A Minor, Opus 132 (the only work of the opus). This quartet differs from the previous one in that it is one of Beethoven’s late works, written around the same time as his famed Ninth Symphony, and showcases the peak of Beethoven’s musical maturity.

Furthermore, this quartet is written in five movements as opposed to the usual four for a string quartet. The outer two movements (first and fifth) are more serious in character, while the second and fourth movements have light and dancelike qualities to them, which provided a break from the emotional intensity.

The true heart of the quartet is the third movement, however, entitled “Heiliger Dankgesang,” meaning Holy Song of Thanks in German. Beethoven wrote in his memoirs that it was his way of praising God for healing him from a life-threatening illness. This movement is roughly 15 minutes in length and slow in tempo, with warm, rich textures and complex harmonies that develop with immense emotional weight.

The Dover Quartet brought all of these out, drawing the audience into a pensive trance. At the conclusion of this momentous work, the musicians received a standing ovation.


“It was all so beautiful and soul stirring,” Tziporah Prottas, a resident of Preston, Connecticut, said after the concert. “It really had an impact on me.”


Brian Roach is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at brian.roach@uconn.edu.