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3.10.05

Takács Addiction


Takács Quartet Concerts in the Area:

October 14, Carnegie Hall, NY
Mozart Quartet K. 465 ("Dissonance")
Debussy Quartet
Mozart Viola Quintet in g minor, K. 516 (w/James Dunham)

October 16, Foundation for the Advanced Education in Sciences
Bethesda, MD
(same program as Carnegie)

October 23, National Gallery, Washington
Haydn Op. 76 No. 3
Borodin No. 2
Beethoven Op. 127

February 25, Carnegie
Schubert a minor, D. 804
Bartok No. 2
Mozart Viola Quintet in C Major (w/James Dunham)

February 25, People’s Symphony Concerts New York, NY
Mozart K. 465
Bartok No. 2
Schubert a minor, D. 804

March 25, Duke University
Mozart K. 465
Beethoven Op. 127
Brahms Piano Quintet (w/Garrick Ohlsson)

March 31, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Mozart Quartet K. 465
Bartok No. 2
Schubert d minor, D. 810

April 1, East Islip Arts Council, Long Island, NY
Mozart Quartet K. 465
Bartok No. 3
Schubert d minor, D. 810

April 2. Colden Center, Queens College Queens, NY
Mozart Quartet K. 465
Bartok No. 3
Schubert d minor, D. 810

April 4, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
Mozart Quartet K. 465
Bartok No. 3
Schubert d minor, D. 810

April 21, Carnegie Hall
Bartok No. 3
Mozart Clarinet Quintet K. 581 (w/Richard Stoltzman)
Schubert d minor, D. 810
When the Takács Quartet plays, Ionarts leaves wife and child behind, drops the ball on all other concerts (whether Lang Lang or Midori), and "With whip and spur we by the chantry [fly], In uncouth race." They are one of the best (if not the best) string quartet around these days - and in Beethoven and Bartók they are simply unparalleled. They are also a tremendous joy to watch, which contributes immensely to the live experience. The group has lost their violist, Roger Tapping, to the latter's domestic responsibilities and gained Geraldine Walther (formerly with the San Francisco SO) in his stead.

Unfortunately, it was an "uncouth race" (Wordsworth) to Baltimore indeed. Traffic jams, closed rail-way crossings, and detours kept us from our goal - perhaps we should not have made fun of these guys? Only after the Mozart Quartet K. 465 ("Dissonance") and Garrick Ohlsson's B minor Chopin sonata did we arrive at Shriver Hall. Slightly unnerved we may have been, but we knew that a treat would await us still - the Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor.

Hearing the Takács I expect to be blown away. I don't expect "excellent" - I expect much more. I expect to hear a piece anew, I expect to access an element of joy and love for the performed repertoire that I had not yet discovered, I expect my jaw to drop and my soul to soar. I expect to get maudlinly effusive. Unfortunately, the performance of the quintet was only excellent. And it probably wasn't even that for the first two movements. The dry acoustic of Shriver hall swallowed the players a bit, and it took until the ravishing finale for the sparks to really fly. Garrick Ohlsson's dutiful contribution to the music was amiable but a bit stiff. Nor did unflexible translate into flawless. With the new violist, the quartet may have yet to find its former cohesion. It was interesting (if perhaps a coincidence) that the players' position made them look like a three-against-one formation - with Ms. Walther a little isolated out on the right (stage left). Her tone was strong, almost wailing at times, technically at the highest level, and individualy pleasant to hear. However, there was a trying feeling to it, also - and something un-chamber-like about it.

Shriver Hall, Johns HopkinsThe Takács are a joy to watch, all the same. The communication among the players, the always palpable joy with which they play their music sets them apart from all other quartets I have seen. Watching them brings the string quartet experience another, very important, level. And musically, the furious finale was almost what I had come to expect. First voilinist Edward Dusinberre set a merciless pace for the violist and the energy that went into the music could be felt coming out of it. It was a tremendous finish that made up for two hours of road rage.

In its new formation, the quality of the Takács Quartet has not noticeably suffered, although Mr. Tapping is surely missed. Or, as Charles put it very well after the concert: "I know Roger Tapping. Roger Tapping was my friend, and you, Ma'am, are no Roger Tapping." Well, she's not supposed to be - and I fully expect the Takács to form a singular unit very soon. They certainly have enough concerts to work on that - and luckily plenty in the region (see list on the right). As for Roger Tapping fans: there will be ample opportunity to hear him play in D.C. when he plays second viola to three different Mozart quintets at the Corcoran.

Additional Comments by Charles T. Downey:

When Mrs. Ionarts heard that her undergraduate flute teacher, Ethan Stang, had died this past summer, it made me think about my piano teachers and how I have been a neglectful former student. I had not contacted my own undergraduate teacher for years, ever since she had left Michigan State University, to return to Korea, where I assumed she had stayed. She was the strictest (read "best") teacher I ever had, introducing me to and making me love a much broader range of piano literature than I had ever known before. Imagine my delight when, after the comedy of errors recounted by Jens that made us so late (memo to self, never try to drive through Baltimore down Charles Street when the Ravens and the Orioles have just finished games), I should run into my teacher, who is now teaching at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

All in all, it is probably the longest time I have spent in the car to hear a single piece of chamber music, but I can't think of many pieces that would be more worth such trouble than the Brahms piano quintet. It was a fine performance, especially the third and fourth movements, when the quartet seemed to come to life, at least judging by the smiles that bloomed on all their faces. Looking at the schedule of upcoming concerts at Shriver Hall, we are going to be driving up to Baltimore, hopefully not under the same dreadful conditions, a lot, especially in the winter: the St. Lawrence String Quartet (December 4, 5:30 pm), the Capuçon brothers (January 29, 5:30 pm), the Vienna Piano Trio (February 26, 5:30 pm), Jordi Savall with Hesperion XXI (March 19, 5:30 pm), Krystian Zimerman (April 7, 8 pm), Fazil Say (April 9, 3 pm), and Angela Hewitt (May 14, 7:30 pm).

7 comments:

Ariadne said...

Me, too, there Jens. I saw "Takács Addiction" and started salivating. Their reputation precedes them, for sure. Time will tell; meantime thanks for a very good review!

With Mark only PRETENDING to be from Baltimore, Charles, look out 'cause you're bringing ionarts onto my "turf" for those Shriver Hall Concerts!

One or all of you might reasonably expect to be met there at any time by "iongroupie". Who knows what might happen then?

Many bottles of wine may be sacrificed in heated post-game analysis ...

Charles T. Downey said...

Andrea,
Next time we will hopefully be on time. No more B-W Parkway until the damn construction is finished.

jfl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ariadne said...

Andrea B. can spell the word 'recognize', and will make absolutely sure to post oh-so-provoking things about ionarts on her blog with alarming regularity (like today), because SOME people don't read other people's [note the correct use of the apostrophe] blogs!

iongroupie, of course, loves you guys no matter how you mistreat her ...

jfl said...

"reckognize" is the internationally accepted Dscherman way of spellink the vord! Dammit.

Ariadne said...

Entweder Sie werden sofort die Ray Bans abnehmen (um das Spellchecker besser zu lesen!) od. Sie sind erster Deutscher der Esperanto verbraucht ...

jfl said...

verbraucht / benutzt... small difference. better gemme back those sunglasses, i think.