Dover Quartet Credit: Carlin Ma

The impressive 2016 debut from this superb young string quartet suggested they might be paragons of orthodoxy: Tribute—Dover Quarter Plays Mozart (Cedille) not only focuses on the composer’s final two string quartets along with his String Quintet in C Minor, it pays homage to the venerable yet forward-looking Guarneri String Quartet in the process. The group’s musicians had studied under three of Guarneri’s members at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, and timed their release exactly five decades after their mentors made their recording debut with interpretations of the same two Mozart quartets. Further connecting the ensembles, Guarneri founding violist Michael Tree joins the Dover Quartet on the quintet. The group made a much bolder, more modern, and conceptually charged recording with last year’s excellent Voices of Defiance (Cedille), performing works by three European composers written in response to the destruction of World War II. The centerpiece is Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 2, an epic masterpiece of violence, sorrow, resistance, and serenity. The two works that surround it are less familiar and deeply rewarding. Czech composer Viktor Ullmann, a student of Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Zemlinsky, wrote the magnificent String Quartet no. 3 while imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp in Theresienstadt, a year before he was transferred to and killed at Auschwitz. It conveys a sense of tenderness among explosive energy and bursts of violence. The collection ends with a surge of measured optimism courtesy of String Quartet no. 3 by Polish composer Szymon Laks, who survived two and a half years at Auschwitz while being forced by the Nazis to lead the concentration-camp orchestra; its postliberation ebullience is spiked with passages of folk-derived darkness, and it deserves a much wider hearing. The quartet is in residence at Northwestern University, and its latest recital stretches between the ensemble’s two albums, with performances of Mozart’s String Quartet in D Minor, Schoenberg’s String Quartet in D Minor, and Zemlinsky’s String Quartet no. 2, the latter two works by Ullman’s two key influences.   v