It seems fitting that the final weekend of artistic director Barry Shiffman’s initial Rockport Chamber Music Festival, features a group that got their start with him.
That may be slightly overstating the case for the Dover Quartet, who comes to the Shalin Liu Performance Center to perform this Friday evening, Saturday morning for a family program, and on Saturday’s late-night cabaret. Dover—Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violins; Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; and Camden Shaw, cello—actually met at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and formed the quartet there.
But it was a competition victory at Banff in 2013—where Shiffman also serves as artistic director—that launched the Dovers’ career. And it certainly has taken off.
Shiffman has served as a mentor to the quartet ever since. “He’s become a great friend, and colleague,” Shaw says. “Barry’s a go-getter, he starts exciting things and he makes them happen. And as a musician, he understands the repertoire, and the lifestyle. It’s nice to have a presenter who is an artist as well.
“He can be honest, for that reason,” Shaw says. “For instance, I’m playing the Popper ‘Requiem’ at the cabaret this weekend. It’s for three cellos and piano, and I was concerned about the sound. It’s got three cellos, after all—rich, and somber. And it is a cabaret performance.
“But it was Barry’s idea, and he got me excited about it. So absolutely—I would love to do it. He’s an inspired thinker.”
And he’ll be a musical colleague as well this weekend, as Shiffman joins the ensemble on Friday for the Mozart G minor quintet. The group has also programmed Dvorak’s A-flat major quartet, and a Viktor Ullmann work that has become part of the Dovers’ identity.
Dover recorded the work (on its “Voices of Defiance: 1943 1944 1945” album), focusing of European works written during World War II. Ullmann’s quartet is particularly striking, in that it was composed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, shortly before the composer was sent to Auschwitz and murdered there.
“It was an incredible project, to hear these different voices,” Shaw says of the recording. “Ullmann’s quartet was the first of the three that we came too. We fell in love with the style.
“It’s incredible to think of the tragedy, and what happened to the millions in those camps. You look at Ullmann’s pedigree, and hear his music, and you know he was poised to be one of the most influential composers of his time. And now we’ve lost almost everything he wrote.”
Educational initiatives have always been a big part of Dovers’ appearance, and this Saturday morning they offer a free concert for audiences of all ages. It’s part of a busy and diverse weekend that marks the end of this summer’s festival.
On Thursday evening, Colin Carr performs all six of the Bach cello suites—always a fascinating and demanding experience. The improbable musical comedians Igudesman and Joo perform on Saturday evening’s main stage event, before the cabaret, and at Sunday’s finale, the great Emerson Quartet returns for two major string works: Beethoven’s Op. 130 quartet, and Schubert’s C major quintet (with Carr).
The Rockport Chamber Music Festival runs through Sunday, July 15. For tickets and information visit www.rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.