String Quartet in E flat, K428
String Quartet in C minor, Op.18/4
Takács Quartet [Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 11 November, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The Takács Quartet began this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall with the third of the set of six string quartets dedicated to Haydn by Mozart in 1785. This particular piece exhibits a number of Haydn’s own compositional attributes, with an abundance of wit to the fore, and experiences bouts of tonal insecurity. That was made clear from the start, the Takács members keen to ensure that the first movement began with its key-centre in doubt, before the music eventually found its warm-hearted E flat. The Minuet enjoyed a heavier weight on the first of its three beats, which allowed the light dance steps of the second and third greater room, one of Mozart’s deceptively simple themes working its magic. In response the Trio was graceful, a quality that also inhabited the aria-like Andante. The finale was a quickstep, Edward Dusinberre hurrying to get his notes in as part of an agreeable rapport with the relatively plain accompaniment. The players clearly enjoyed this dialogue, while quick thinking from Károly Schranz saved the day when Dusinberre’s copy made an unexpected bid for freedom!
Beethoven used the key of C minor frequently, and in the earlier works its use tended to be a signal for music of energy and impetuosity, definitely the case with the fourth of his set of six string quartets, Opus 18. There is potential for humour in this work, too, despite its occasionally stern countenance, but the Takács musicians offered a straight-faced approach to the first three movements in particular, achieved with considerable virtuosity and challenging tempos that emphasised the absence of a slow movement in this piece. The second movement, Andante scherzoso quasi allegretto, had moments of charm and the succeeding Minuet was more aggressive and a little breathless. In the finale Dusinberre certainly earned his crust, with many more notes to play than his colleagues. The music surged forwards. The gruff tremolos were often thrilling and the finish was truly affirmative.