Takács Quartet/Beethoven

String Quartet in F, Op.18/1
String Quartet in E flat, Op.74 (Harp)
String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op.131

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

Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel

Reviewed: 11 November, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Takács Quartet. Photograph: takacsquartet.comThe second instalment of the Takács Quartet’s Beethoven cycle at Queen Elizabeth Hall was a well-designed programme featuring works from the early, middle and late stages of Beethoven’s career. (The first recital, given the previous evening, consisted of Opuses 18/Number 2, 95, and 130 with the second finale.)

It’s refreshing to note that the Takács members continue to engage audiences with performances that put musicality and humanity to the fore (a throwback to an earlier era), eschewing the high-tech gloss that other ensembles seem to prize. That said, there were technical imperfections throughout the evening, it’s just that these seemed to be of less importance when the players’ immersion into the heart of the music was so deep expressed through Edward Dusinberre’s soaring violin lines, Károly Schranz’s impishness and delicate tone, András Fejér’s rock-solid cello and Geraldine Walther’s supportive and unprepossessing viola.

The first of the Opus 18 quartets received a warmly sensitive reading with well-judged tempos, fine intonation and keen attention to dynamics. The Adagio affetuoso unfolded beautifully in a totally unforced manner, the scherzo suitably demonic but never pushed hard. The finale was appropriately high spirited.

The ‘Harp’ was even better, the opening movement conveying a sense of intimacy, the Adagio being heartfelt and lyrical and deeply affecting. One could quibble slightly over the scherzo which at times seemed slightly too fast; the opening notes played as triplets for instance, but the finale was exuberantly expressed with strong rhythms and not a little humour.

Opus 131 sounded more human and earthier than in a long while. More inward-looking than the earlier quartets, it’s a work of the most extraordinary originality in its seamless integration of seven movements. The first movement fugue was carried off with blazing intensity while the interweaving theme and variations of the fourth movement were effortlessly negotiated. The skill of the Takács musicians was to make everything belong and to remind as to the music’s greatness.

  • The Takács Quartet’s Beethoven cycle continues in 2010 on January 26 & 27 and May 12 & 13

  • Southbank Centre

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