String Quartet in A, Op.18/5
String Quartet in C minor, Op.18/4
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: 26 January, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
This concert was a tonic. The opening of the A major String Quartet danced delightfully, with poise, charm and good-heartedness, and a clear debt to Joseph Haydn, the members of the Takács Quartet in peerless form, playing with civility and an impish streak. The second-placed Minuet was elegant, occasionally acerbic, and then contrasted with the lent-on, droning Trio. The tender liaisons of the opening of the slow movement hung lovingly in the air, but the ensuing commentaries were indicative of Beethoven’s restless and fecund imagination, the musicians becoming village-square buskers for a time; whatever hair had been let down, all was immaculately tailored for a fluent finale.
If juxtaposing two of the Opus 18 quartets seemed questionable – as well as avoidable within the context of a complete cycle – this performance of the C minor work was exceptional, doubts brushed aside, the tense opening movement in a different orbit to anything offered in the A major piece. Contrast indeed. The Takács players brought an invigorating flow and drive to the first movement, then stealth and rustic edge to the nominal scherzo that sounds as a minuet; it all went like clockwork but with a dry humour that is denied to mechanical objects. This was human. Then comes a Minuet, speedy and possessed – a scherzo in all but name (Beethoven turning formality upside down and also creating a classical work without a slow movement) – before the Takács musicians once again brought poise and suavity to the finale before introducing a dash to the finishing post that Seb Coe would have been proud of.
Having already claimed the Gold Medal, where to go next for the Takács Quartet? The ‘late’ A minor Quartet entered as if from another world, Beethoven on one of his greatest searches and presenting us with one of his greatest abstractions. After the references set-up by the two quartets from Opus 18, there was here the opportunity to look back, but now with even greater experience and import, not least in the extended slow movement, a hymnal seeking salvation and finding radiance, released in dancing figures, the music’s close harmony confirming Beethoven’s belief in the brotherhood of man and here the Takács members’ fraternity. This was transfixing. The finale could have blown cold after such rapture, but a certain serenity unfolded it with persuasion, Edward Dusinberre’s intense recitatives aside, and a unanimous rounding-off completed an outstanding evening of music and performance.
- The Takács Quartet’s Beethoven cycle continues on January 27 and May 12 & 13
- Southbank Centre