Schubert String Quartet in B flat and G – Takacs Quartet

Takacs Quartet - Schubert String Quartets in G and B Flat
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Schubert
String Quartet in B flat major, D112
String Quartet in G major, D887

Takács Quartet (Edward Dusinberre & Harumi Rhodes (violin), Richard O’Neill (viola), András Fejér (cello))

Recorded at the Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, 20-23 May 2023


Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: July 2024
CD No: Hyperion: CD, PCM download and stream: CDA68423
Duration: 77:48

 

 

Of the original Takács Quartet, formed 49 years ago, only the cellist András Fejér remains, but having recorded for Hungaraton, Decca and Hyperion their performing style and unique sound, where they concentrate on beauty of tone, clarity, immaculate intonation, ensemble and forward moving tempi, have remained remarkably consistent. On the downside they can lack emotional commitment and sound too much like a well-oiled machine.  

They had already recorded D885 for Decca, where the opening and closing movements were faster, the Andante slower. Here they couple it with D.112, which is full of mellifluous melody, but as is so often the case with Schubert there is a sense of underlying melancholy, which comes to the fore in the Andante. Throughout the Takács create refined textures, delineate line and rhythm and create beautiful sounds, but unforgivably omit the first movement exposition repeat (see below); whereas the Lindsays (ASV) find more darkness in the opening Allegro and at a minute slower, greater emotional depth in the Andante.     

In Schubert’s last quartet you admire the way the Takács realise the shifting harmonies, use dynamic variation and create a real sense of drama in the first movement development. But in the Andante un poco moto their phrasing is too smooth, and they don’t speak to the listener in the way the Belcea Quartet (HMV), at a slower tempo, do, or, indeed their earlier selves. The last two movements are better but the Belcea’s make the Scherzo and it’s Trio sound more unsettlingly eerie, their fortes are more incisive and while their intonation isn’t as good in the finale, their voicing of the inner parts and rhythms make the Takács sound too civilised, whereas before they sounded rushed. 

Recorded at one of Hyperion’s regular haunts, the 24/192 stream has a middle-distance overall balance and the venues acoustic and instrumental timbres are reasonably well captured. However having recently heard the Takács in DSD512 on the Yarlung audiophile label it is obvious that however good this is as 24/192 sound, it is a pale imitation of the DSD512, which is far richer and analogue like. 

With regard to the missing first movement exposition repeat in D112, taking it would have added four minutes to the running time, thus making the CD almost 82 minutes long, which is pushing it. Nevertheless one can only hope that the Takács’ didn’t omit it for such a banal reason.  

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