After the afternoon’s concert audience was ushered back into the Eric Harvie Theatre this evening, the Dover Quartet from the United States pretty much swept the prize roster at the 11th Banff International String Quartet Competition.
The buzz from the audience, made up of a large percentage of repeat visitors to this triennial competition, was that this had been one of the musically most impressive competitions in recent memory. And the finalists didn’t disappoint.
The Banff competition culminated on Sunday afternoon with performances of quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven that helped establish the final order of the three finalists.
The Dover Quartet, formed at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia in 2008, treated the capacity audience to an unforgettably beautifully shaped performance of Beethoven’s Op. 59 No 2 String Quartet. that resulted in a spontaneous, prolonged and well-deserved standing ovation.
For their artistic pains, the Dovers received the Banff competition’s first prize as well as the ProQuartet Prize, consisting of a recital in Paris and the Esterházy Foundation Prize, which includes a recital at Eszterháza Palace in Eisenstadt.
The Dovers’ earlier performances also clearly pleased the international jury of seven, because they bestowed the R.S. Williams & Sons Haydn Prize, the Székely Prize for best Schubert performance and the Canadian Commission Prize to these young Americans, as well.
It nearly turned into a Dover sweep. However, Banff competition director Barry Shiffman noted that, even though these accolades didn’t come with a prize attached, the jury had most enjoyed the Romantic Round performance of the Linden Quartet, which includes two graduates from Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.
The Banff competition’s official second prize went to the three-year-old Quatuor Cavatine from France. Shiffman added that this quartet had also came up with the judges’ favourite performance of a 20th century work on the very first day of the competition.
Third prize went to the 11-year-old Navarra Quartet, which is based in the U.K.
All of the prizes come with cheques attached, but what makes the Banff competition special are the artist residencies that come with the first-, second- and third-place finishes.
Besides all of these laurels, the Dovers also received four handmade bows from Quebec master François Malo, a recording to be made in Banff and concert tours in North America and Europe — including a future recital date with the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, which has for many years invited Banff laureates to its concert series.
The Banff competition estimates that the total value of the first prize is a bit more than $200,000. The cash prizes from the other laurels add up to an additional $8,000 plus artist fees.