Takács Quartet/Beethoven [27 January 2010]

Beethoven
String Quartet in D, Op.18/3
String Quartet in E minor, Op.59/2 (Razumovsky)
String Quartet in E flat, Op.127

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


Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: 27 January, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Takács Quartet. Photograph: takacsquartet.comYet more marvels unfolded in the fourth concert of the Takács Quartet’s Beethoven cycle, in a clearly defined progress from early, straining-at-the-seams classicism, to middle-period high-drama and romance, and on to late, boundary-breaking transcendentalism.

If you discovered, as I imagine a significant number of the audience did, the quartet-repertoire through the extensive recordings and tireless concert-giving of the Amadeus Quartet, the Takács come across as almost subversive. The Amadeus ‘house-style’ had a patrician urbanity to it, hugely influential and with impressive authority, which suited Mozart, for instance, superbly, but applied a reflective layer between the listener and Beethoven that could diffuse the music’s powerful originality.

On the evidence of this concert, the Takács members not only have a complete understanding of the growth of one period into the next, they also have a profound grasp of the scale of presentation, which is in a constant state of flux between private and public expression. The D major work from Opus 18 was played with great wit and affection, with Edward Dusinberre’s bright-toned violin taking the obviously classical lead, and the quirky fantasy of the slow movement subtly flagging up its future potential.

Only six years separate this quartet from the second ‘Razumovsky’, but what a world of difference. Words such as ‘symphonic’ and ‘splendour’ come to mind, the work’s opening two chords a close relation to the similar statement that sets the vast ‘Eroica’ Symphony in motion. This is Beethoven at his explosively virtuosic best, and the Takács Quartet delivered the three fast movements with incredible panache. The dreamlike Adagio (marked to be played ‘con molto sentimento‘ – a brief the musicians more than honoured) had a depth of expression that must have made the late-Romantics eat their hearts out, and which the Takács played with rapturous, veiled reverence. The precision and sheer physicality of the finale was breathtaking – and risk-taking, especially in the skittering three-note figure playing tag through the four instruments, and executed with high-wire insouciance.

Much water had flowed between that and Opus 127, and again the Takács players were in total command of this very different music. The sense of letting go, of open-ended experiment and of liberation was immediately apparent, and the intuitive distribution of leadership between the four players piled layers of meaning and expression onto an already highly-charged work. What an intense experience this was, a potent mix of extreme musicianship and honed intuitiveness entirely at Beethoven’s service.

     
  • The Takács Quartet’s Beethoven cycle continues on May 12 & 13

  • Southbank Centre

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