Dover Quartet and Haochen Zhang, piano

Repertoire includes Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34 and Neikrug’s Piano Quintet No. 2

Marc Neikrug’s Piano Quintet No. 2, subtitled “In Six Parts,” is written for the Dover Quartet and Haochen Zhang. Designed to highlight the virtuosity of each individual musician, the work alternates between the full quintet and smaller combinations of instruments, exploring extreme emotions through the varying episodes. The piece is commissioned by Music Accord, Inc., and Chamber Music in Napa Valley.


  • Dover Quartet
    Joel Link, violin
    Bryan Lee, violin
    Julianne Lee, viola
    Camden Shaw, cello

    Named one of the greatest string quartets of the last 100 years by BBC Music Magazine, the GRAMMY® nominated Dover Quartet has followed a “practically meteoric” (Strings) trajectory to become one of the most in-demand chamber ensembles in the world. In addition to its faculty role as the Penelope P. Watkins Ensemble in Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Dover Quartet holds residencies with the Kennedy Center, Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Artosphere, and the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival. The group’s awards include a stunning sweep of all prizes at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, grand and first prizes at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and prizes at the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition. Its prestigious honors include the Avery Fisher Career Grant, Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award, and Lincoln Center’s Hunt Family Award.

    The Dover Quartet’s 2022–23 season includes collaborations with Edgar Meyer, Joseph Conyers, and Haochen Zhang. The group tours Europe twice, including a return to London’s renowned Wigmore Hall and a debut performance in Copenhagen. The quartet recently premiered Steven Mackey’s theatrical-musical work Memoir, alongside arx duo and actor-narrator Natalie Christa. Other recent and upcoming artist collaborations include Emanuel Ax, Inon Barnaton, Ray Chen, the Escher String Quartet, Bridget Kibbey, Anthony McGill, the Pavel Haas Quartet, Roomful of Teeth, the late Peter Serkin, and Davóne Tines. In addition to two previous albums for the label, Cedille Records releases the third volume of the Dover Quartet’s Beethoven Complete String Quartets recording in October 2022. The quartet’s recording of The Schumann Quartets for Azica Records was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award in 2020. The Dover Quartet was formed in 2008 at the Curtis Institute of Music.

  • Since his gold medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009, Haochen Zhang has captivated audiences in the United States, Europe, and Asia with a unique combination of deep musical sensitivity, fearless imagination, and spectacular virtuosity. In 2017 he received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, which recognizes talented musicians with the potential for a major career in music.

    Mr. Zhang has appeared with many of the world’s leading festivals and orchestras including the China Philharmonic Orchestra with with Long Yu at the BBC Proms; the Munich Philharmonic with Lorin Maazel in a sold-out tour in Munich and China; the Moscow Easter Festival by special invitation of Valery Gergiev; the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with David Robertson in a tour of China; the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra with Thomas Hengelbrock in a tour of Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai; and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin in a tour of Japan. In October 2017 he gave a concerto performance at Carnegie Hall with the NCPA Orchestra, which was followed by his recital debut at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.

    Additional symphony highlights include appearances with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, performances of all the Beethoven concertos with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and a tour in China with the National Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed with the London and WDR symphony orchestras; the London, Japan, and Warsaw philharmonic orchestras; the San Francisco, Pacific, Seattle, and Kansas City symphonies; the Los Angeles and Israel philharmonics; Mariinsky Orchestra; Lucerne Festival Orchestra; Frankfurt Radio Symphony; and National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan, among others.

    Recital appearances include those at Spivey Hall, La Jolla Music Society, Celebrity Series of Boston, CU Presents Artist Series, Cliburn Concerts, Krannert Center, Wolf Trap Discovery Series, Lied Center of Kansas, and UVM Lane Series, among others. He frequently presents solo recitals across China and Europe.

    In July 2019 Mr. Zhang released his debut concerto album on BIS Records, performing with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Dima Slobodeniouk. His debut solo album was released by BIS in February 2017. Mr. Zhang’s performances at the Cliburn Competition were released by Harmonia Mundi in 2009 and he is featured in Peter Rosen’s award-winning documentary, A Surprise in Texas, chronicling the competition.

    Mr. Zhang is an avid chamber musician, collaborating with colleagues such as the Shanghai, Tokyo, and Brentano string quartets. He performs regularly at festivals including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest.

    Mr. Zhang is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied under Gary Graffman. He has also studied with Andreas Haefliger and at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Shenzhen Arts School with Dan Zhaoyi.

From the Composer

The second piano quintet was composed in Santa Fe in 2021 for Haochen Zhang and the Dover Quartet.

My first quintet was in one extended movement, which encompassed a somewhat traditional opening, scherzo, slow movement and finale. For this second quintet, I wanted to explore a completely different scenario.

Therefore, even under the title, Piano Quintet No. 2, I added a subtitle: ‘In Six Parts.’ The form of the work is all about layering and perspective. This begins, on the most basic level, with the six parts themselves. Parts number one, four and six are the three anchors of the work. They are longer and more emotionally varied, even perhaps, more profound. They anchor the piece. As a totality, they are one, long, arching movement, which is simply separated in time by interspersing the other, shorter parts. Over the course of the piece, this long ‘movement’ undergoes a developing exploration of several episodes of varying character. The episodic nature of this music is similar to a stream of consciousness. Emotions change abruptly and towards extremes, rather than having preparatory transitions.

An aside: as regards the emotional content of music, I have long left the idea of any specific, representative reflections. I believe that the emotions in music encompass their own world. And clearly, we can relate to that world and absorb the experience.

There are several specific, and recognizable aspects of these episodes, which are found in all three parts of this arching movement. There is a prominent three chord progression, which appears in all three parts. There are longer sections developing a flowing, chromatic melody, which is simpler in the strings and more embellished in the piano filigree. There is a falling two chord motif. And there are short, two note, plaintive, cries.

One of the most complex and difficult aspects of composing any piece is creating the last movement. One always faces the urge to arrive at a summation, a culmination of the previous parts. In this case, the sixth part becomes a natural outgrowth of its organic development, from part one and part four.

Parts two and three act as both small episodes of their own, as well as crucial ‘spacers’ between part one and four. The three anchors are intense and demanding of the listener. They need time in between. Part two is really an episode in sound and atmosphere. It is a duet by the two violins alone, which is meant to sound like one violin. It is soft, mysterious, and fleeting.

Part three is in essence a chorale, played by the piano. It is, however, also a good example of the layering I referred to above. This specific layering manifests in a softer, faster music, which we hear on a different plane from the piano chorale. I think of how clouds, layered in the sky, travel at different heights and different speeds. In a further method of cohesion, the chorale stems from the three chord motif, which appears in parts one, four, and six.

Part number five serves the same purpose between the anchors four and six. It has its own sound and emotion, but also serves to separate and add space. This part is a jazzy, improvisatory, semi-unison sprint. In addition to its other functions, it also provides substantial propulsion. The accumulated energy allows for the weight of the sixth part that follows it. In some ways it feels like a finale itself and makes part six feel like a long coda, adding to its sense of culmination or epilogue.

Part six begins all pizzicato in the strings. This material is derived from the fast, secondary string parts of the movement three chorale. It then progresses through episodes of the further developed themes from parts one and four, including the chromatic melody and the three chord theme. It ends in a reflective, calm resolution.

Another thought about the layered aspects of the piece involves the writing for the strings and the piano. In many piano quintets, thinking of Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak, the piano and strings play substantially the same music. I tried to make a distinct separation and independence for them. In much of the writing the piano and strings can sound as if they are playing on different planes, closer or further away.

As with most of my music, the demands on the performers are great. The writing requires obvious mastery of their instruments. It also demands engaged emotional understanding and great ensemble. Because of the independence of the parts, everyone needs to be aware of what everyone else is playing at all times.

—Marc Neikrug