The Dover String Quartet, which recently graduated from Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, made a clean sweep at the Banff (Alberta) International String Quartet Competition on Sunday. The group walked away with the $25,000 first prize and also three special prizes.
The Dover Quartet – comprising violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-Van de Stadt and cellist Camden Shaw – started playing together in Philadelphia in 2008. Three years later, the four musicians, who are all in their 20s, moved to Houston to enroll in a special program at Rice.
“The level of playing in the Banff competition was incredibly high. On a different day, a different group might have won,” Shaw said. “We took prizes for the best Schubert quartet, the best Haydn quartet and the best performance of the commissioned piece.”
The Dovers arrived in the scenic town of Banff – in the Canadian Rockies – with about three hours of music prepared. After playing in four competitive rounds over six days, they were selected for the finals.
For the finals, they played Beethoven's Quartet Op. 59 No. 2 (the second of the “Razumovsky” quartets) – beating France's Quatuor Cavatine and the UK's Navarra Quartet.
“The Dover Quartet consistently demonstrated an exceptional level of maturity, poise and artistry,” said violinist Barry Shiffman, the competition's executive director. “This young group is ready for a major performing career, and we look forward to working together to help make that happen.”
In addition to the cash prize, the Dovers won a recording contract and a series of international engagements – including a gig at Hungary's Esterhazy Palace, where Joseph Haydn composed his string quartets.
Shaw also pointed out the intangible benefits that come from entering the Banff Competition.
“It's more than a competition; it's a networking opportunity,” he said. “We made new friends, and we'll see them around the world. It's easy to say this is the warmest and most supportive environment for a competition we've ever encountered.”
The Dovers will return to Philadelphia for a residency at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. Shaw leaves Houston with fond memories – and he has nothing but praise for the Dovers' two years at the Shepherd School.
“The experience at Rice was wonderful. Our mentors there helped us through the most fragile time in our development. If it weren't for them, I don't think we would have stayed together.”
© Colin Eatock 2013