Takács Quartet & Marc-André Hamelin – Schumann

0 of 5 stars

String Quartet in A, Op.41/3
Piano Quintet in E flat, Op.44

Takács Quartet [Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)] with Marc-André Hamelin (piano)

Recorded 14-17 May 2009 in St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: December 2009
Duration: 57 minutes



Having completed its survey of Brahms’s string quartets for Hyperion, the members of the Takács Quartet now turn their attention to his close friend Robert Schumann.

Schumann’s string quartets may not be as highly regarded as those of Brahms, but each of Schumann’s Opus 41 pieces boasts an abundance of melodic content. In the case of the third of the set this is coupled with a lyrical freshness, a quality the Takács members emphasise from the beginning.

This is a sunny interpretation of music written in one of the happiest periods of the composer’s life, and it is difficult to listen to the vivacity of the finale without smiling. Its insistent motif returns in many guises, but on each occasion the Takács players ensure it is fresh and vital. Meanwhile the three-in-a-bar second movement has a gracefulness about it, the lilting rhythms making it an attractive waltz. Contrasting with this later in the movement the musicians take the fugato passage by the scruff of the neck, driving onwards.

The Piano Quintet, written just a year later, is tagged on rather quickly at the end of the quartet so that it comes as a bit of a shock. It receives an excellent performance, with extremely realistic production and recording. Piano and strings are often in perfect ensemble, though the phrasing is a little heavier than the quartet.This means that full ensemble passages, especially in the first movement, can sound on the brittle side, and on more than one occasion Marc-André Hamelin leans on rubato a little too heavily. The inner movements find him at his best, however, and though the slow movement is taken as a very slow march, the musicians find a beautiful legato for the chorale-like second theme. The scherzo has a persuasive drive and unity, its syncopations coming to the fore.

While this disc may not quite hit the heights of the Takács’s Brahms series, this is nonetheless a fine complement to it.

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