String Quartet in D, Op.64/5 (Lark)
String Quartet in E flat, Op.51
Takács Quartet [Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 23 January, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
With a programme to brighten even the dullest Monday in January, the Takács Quartet brought an infectious spontaneity to this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert. The musicians began with Haydn. The ‘Lark’ is the penultimate of twelve string quartets dedicated to Johann Tost, the principal second violinist in the orchestra at Esterhazy. It’s a charming piece, full of insouciant humour and positivity, and these qualities were to the fore in this performance. The ‘lark’ of the nickname refers to the melody played in the opening movement by the first violin. Edward Dusinberre gave it an appropriately sweet tone.
The Takács members have clear affection for Haydn, and have spent a lot time with his music of late, recording Opuses 71 and 74 for Hyperion. A tender account of the Adagio touched on the improvisatory nature of the faster writing for lead violin, while the acciaccaturas of the Minuet were almost completely clipped, enhancing the cheeky mood of this particular dance. An excellent balance between the four players was clear throughout the finale, where Geraldine Walther and András Fejér enjoyed their roles as amused observers while the two violinists negotiated the moto perpetuo passages with considerable flair, the work running away to its finish.
It is good to see Dvořák’s ‘middle period’ string quartets gaining more recognition recently, for they deserve to be placed alongside the popular later works such as the ‘American’, being every bit their compositional equal. The E flat String Quartet is a wonderfully spontaneous work, the composer exploring Slavonic themes in a ‘Dumka’ which veers between minor-key melancholy and major-key exuberance. The contrast between the two was vivid here, as it was in the finale, where high spirits were occasionally quashed by the uncertainty of faltering arpeggios, again veering towards the minor key.
The rocking motion of the first movement was immediately appealing, with Schranz and Walther linking up in an elegant inner theme. The ‘Romance’ was weightier in texture, Fejér adding richness to the lower parts with immaculate double-stopping. Dvořák’s fruitful melodic invention was for all to savour, and reached its pinnacle in the main theme of the finale, gaining greater resolution with each appearance until it won through with ease.