Schumann, Piano Quintet, Takács Quartet, Marc-André Hamelin
(released on November 10, 2009)
Hyperion CDA67631 | 56'33"
Beethoven, Middle Period String Quartets, Takács Quartet
Haydn, op. 71/2 | Beethoven, op. 59/3
Schumann, Piano Quintet (op. 44)
The opening Haydn, op. 71/2, was delivered with a bright, elegant first movement, the first theme's octave motif leaping off the page and rocketing crisply around the ring of instruments. First violinist Edward Dusinberre had an impeccably clear tone in the soaring lines and florid solo decoration of the slow movement, over a glowing ember kind of sound from the other instruments. Bahn seemed a little unsure at a couple points in the fourth movement, a sweet little dance, which added to the impression of the performance as beautiful but not exceptional. In any case, the following Beethoven, the third of the Rasumovsky quartets (op. 59/3), is more of a Takács specialty. It opened with a series of almost disembodied chords, glistening reflections, followed by another virtuosic display by the first violin, best in its sort-of cadenza, set in a dream-like stasis.
The second movement was the most memorable, a gloomy serenade that floated above the pizzicato cello. The tempo here was just right, allowed the pulse to rock back and forth, never feeling rushed. The quartet wisely did not try to force the sound, in a vain attempt to fill the hall, requiring the listener to come to them, leaning close as if to see the varnished smoothness of an exquisite artwork's surface. The other excellent part of this performance was a dazzlingly fast performance of the fourth movement, its fugal opening another test for Bahn, as the subject, a cascade of fast notes, is handed first to the viola and second violin. It was certainly fine Beethoven, if not quite that inexplicably breath-taking Takács Beethoven. This fall, presumably with their regular second violinist, the Takács Quartet undertakes a collaborative project with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival called Quartet, a play by David Lawrence Morse about Beethoven's late quartets, for which the ensemble will play one of those late quartets, op. 132.
Joe Banno, Takacs retains richness, even with pinch-hitter (Washington Post, April 19)
WPAS has followed its usual formula in planning its 2010-2011 season, returning to many of its usual favorites. While this generally means few surprises, it also guarantees that many of their concerts are not to be missed. Things are no different next season, which features the following highlights, which can be gleaned, with some effort, from an extremely complicated interactive brochure: Yo-Yo Ma in a program that is a little pops or gala concert in tone (October 21), Anne-Sophie Mutter with Lambert Orkis playing all the Brahms violin sonatas (November 13), Renée Fleming in a recital of something or other (January 8), Evgeny Kissin in what promises to be a knockout all-Liszt program (March 5), and Maurizio Pollini playing the last three Beethoven sonatas (March 30). It will also have visiting orchestras, including the Mariinsky with Gergiev in Mahler's 8th symphony (October 19), the Dresden Staatskapelle with Daniel Harding (November 3), the Boston Symphony Orchestra with James Levine (or, quite possibly, someone else -- March 19), and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Charles Dutoit (May 20). Of greatest interest if slightly less star wattage are appearances by Joyce DiDonato (February 15), András Schiff in an all-Schumann program (October 20), Marc-André Hamelin (April 29), Kapell Competition winner Sofya Gulyak (January 22), Till Fellner (January 29), and a devilish program from an Ionarts favorite, Pierre-Laurent Aimard (May 5). See the rest for yourself.