String Quartet in D, K575 (Prussian)
String Quartet in A minor, Op.13
Piano Quintet in A, Op.81
Takács Quartet [Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)] with Andreas Haefliger (piano)
Reviewed by: Violet Bergen
Reviewed: 7 August, 2011
Venue: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
Mozart’s first ‘Prussian’ String Quartet, one of three (the others being K589 and K590), written for the cello-playing monarch of that region, features this instrument rather prominently. The Takács Quartet has an extremely blended tone and enormously varied color palette, and played the work with finesse. Ironically, the only disappointment was András Fejér’s strained tone in the cello’s upper range. His solos in the Andante sounded rather forced, and at odds with the other players’ sweet and tender timbres. Yet the thoughtfully structured pacing and matching subtleties of phrasing of all the musicians were truly remarkable. They found the perfect balance of lightness and intensity in the Minuet. Overall, the instrumentalists did their best to make this weak work convincing.
Mendelssohn’s A minor String Quartet was more hearty fare. Its slow start was the perfect vehicle to display the interpreters’ subtle manipulations of tonal shading, playing together as one evolving organism. The build-up of intensity in the Allegro vivace was gradual and very meaningful when it reached its climax. Geraldine Walther was particularly impressive in showcasing her instrument’s beautifully diverse character. In its highest register – often the harshest region of a viola – it was breathtakingly bright and clear, without sounding the at all violin-like, and rich and dark in the Adagio’s fugal section. Edward Dusinberre had his moment in the spotlight in the finale’s cadenza-like passages and displayed confidence, his tone purposefully cutting through his peers’ sound in louder passages, and quietly resonating in the softer unaccompanied sections.
Dvořák’s (second) Piano Quintet came about after the composer lost the score of his earlier such work in the same key, and it was his attempt to reconstruct the work from memory. (The score for the earlier work was later found and published after the composer’s death.) The glorious later Piano Quintet is a completely different piece, and it prominently features the composer’s instrument, the viola. Walther reveled in her solos and she soared spectacularly soared. Dusinberre’s seamless legato bowing allowed him to shape phrases exquisitely. The players exaggerated the pace of the frequently changing tempos in the ‘Dumka’ second movement and in the scherzo, and the faster sections were particularly exciting. Andreas Haefliger played with sensitivity and strength but was careful to refrain from overpowering the strings.