Takács Quartet

String Quartet No.6
String Quartet in D minor, K421
String Quartet in A minor, Op.132

Takács Quartet [Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)]

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 9 November, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

In the first of three recitals this season in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Takács Quartet began with Bartók’s final string quartet, written in 1939 at a time of world and personal conflict. The first three movements, the beginning of each marked ‘Mesto’ (Sad), all seem to be part of a journey that will culminate in the slow (Mesto) finale. Beginning with Geraldine Walther’s eloquent and heartfelt viola solo, the ‘sad theme’ that permeates the work until fully exposed in the finale, was established with conviction from the off, the Takács members developing the work’s agitation and intensity with finesse, lucidity and identification, as well as being aware of the music’s whimsy and picturesque touches.

Mozart’s D minor Quartet (one of those that Mozart dedicated to Haydn) received a rather too urbane account at times, although the musicians’ confiding was affecting and there was no lack of pathos. The Takács Quartet’s lean sound and luminous balances underlined the classical aspects of the work, but sometimes the musicians’ suave approach rather softened the work’s darkness and glamorised its earthier aspects. The second movement Andante, which would have benefited from being a hairsbreadth slower, was very touching and the finale’s variations were suitably contrasted, the one that makes a feature of the viola being especially memorable.

This very sophisticated performance left some doubts as to whether the Takács musicians maybe work every detail out too consciously; a little more spontaneity would have been welcome at times, and a more rough-hewn soundworld would have been appropriate for the Beethoven. Yet the ensemble’s immaculate approach pays many dividends and the foursome interact as true chamber music performers; every note is lived and body-language and eye-contact reveals total commitment.

Beethoven’s A minor Quartet was given an especially concentrated performance, the composer’s inspiration white-hot. At the work’s heart is ‘A convalescent’s hymn of thanksgiving’, a deeply felt, here rapt, Adagio with joyous dance-like interludes. The Takács members suspended time, compelled the audience, and in the fifth and final movement found an heroic energy that swept all before it.

  • Takács Quartet/Queen Elizabeth Hall concerts on 24 February and 18 May
  • South Bank Centre

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