Takács Quartet

String Quartet in C, K465 (Dissonance)
String Quartet in G minor, Op.10
String Quartet in E flat, Op.127

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

Reviewed by: Erwin Hösi

Reviewed: 10 November, 2005
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

With the Takács Quartet there is no unnecessary gravity or sombreness in the musicians’ appearance – only professional activity. And the performances revealed a vibrant and lively approach, which, like that of the Végh Quartet, has frequently been referred to as specifically Hungarian or ‘gypsy’-like. Besides the obvious craftsmanship, there is also a musicality that brings fresh insights to well-known works and produced a number of exciting moments: passionate outbursts and solemnly hushed chords abounded.

From the atonal opening of the ‘Dissonance’ Quartet it was clear that this was not the “conversation of four sensible people” that Goethe saw in the genre, but much more intense and immediate. Founding member Károlyi Schranz’s wild gestures ranged from states of mere quirkiness to frighteningly demonic, and underneath the lightness of the Mozart there lurked a darker element that even found its way into the serene Andante cantabile.

Most extraordinary was the Debussy, an early piece composed by a master who had just reached artistic maturity. Each movement opened up a different musical world, helping the musicians show off the various qualities of their performing style. The thundering and fiery opening movement had an almost orchestral sonority that still remained transparent enough to make hypnotic each voice’s fanciful flights. The scherzo had a flavour the arabesque with its delicate rhythm and spidery pizzicatos, while the dreamy and sensuous Andantino bowed – ambiguously – to the Romantic period. The closing movement’s grand final chord left a sense of amazement regarding the voluminous sonority of the Takács Quartet.

As the programme-note writer Julian Haylock remarked, Beethoven’s E flat string quartet opens hallowed territory, and though significantly shorter than the first part of the concert, this work provided an amount of music that the other works could not deliver in double the time. As with the Mozart and the Debussy, this performance convinced with the ensemble’s ability to meld full-bloodedness with propriety and sophistication.

After a programme as demanding as this, it was understandable that there was no encore. The great news is that, with this concert, the Takács Quartet was introduced as Associate Artists of the South Bank Centre, succeeding the Alban Berg Quartett (sic). Among the Takács’s plans is a collaboration with a traditional Hungarian ensemble, “Muzsikás”.

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