Those impressed by lacquered, manicured string playing may not go for the Takács Quartet. For these are the wild beasts of the quartet world — four musicians for whom passion, laced with intelligence, is uppermost. With Edward Dusinberre’s first violin, especially, you’re always aware that the instrument’s music comes at root from a wire being scraped. Febrile music with febrile emotions: that’s what these players are born for.
A perfect fit, then, for the excitements of Southbank Centre’s Cycles of Beethoven, this season’s successor to the acclaimed piano sonata series last year with Daniel Barenboim. Few seats were spare on Tuesday as the Colorado-based group launched the project with their own cycle of Beethoven quartets, distilled into six programmes. The first programme’s organising principle was tried, trusted and satisfying: an early quartet (Op 18 No 2), one from the middle years (Op 95), and one of the late, epic conundrums (Op 130).
Opus 95, punchy and mercurial, played to their greatest strength, the gift of unity in diversity. Throughout the kaleidoscope they promoted their instrument’s individual colours and tones, yet stayed yoked together, note after note, by intuitive feeling and many glances of the eyes. As each player wove a path, different personalities glinted: the sunny warmth of Geraldine Walther’s viola; András Fejér’s chameleonic cello, nimble and focused; Károly Schranz’s puckish second violin; and on the top layer, Dusinberre’s darting silver gleam. Four individuals, yet fused as one in the hairpin swells of the finale’s allegretto theme or the fire of their ensemble attack. Op 18 No 2 impressed almost as much, from the first movement’s edgy accented quavers to the finale’s playful high spirits.
For Op 130, they chose the revised version, the one without the Grosse Fuge. Without it, the players seemed slightly adrift architecturally, wonderfully alert in moments, but never quite pulling the edifice together with the earlier force. They’re still a magnificent quartet though.
Review taken from The Sunday Times, 15 November 2009.
Gabor Takacs, the founder of the Takacs Quartet, will be appearing as Guest Conductor with Manchester Camerata for a series of concerts during the New Year period in January 2010. Visit www.manchestercamerata.co.uk/whats-on/concerts/new-year-s-day-viennese-gala for more information.