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Ionarts-at-Large: The Takács Quartet in Vienna

The heart of chamber music of Vienna beats in the Mozart-Saal. But the offerings at the Brahms-Saal of the venerable, more famous Musikverein can be tempting, too… and if and when the Takács Quartet calls whence, the resident-ionarts unit will drop whatever he is doing and head over to hear one of our longest standing favorites. Even in an utterly conservative program such as they presented at the Musikverein on Tuesday, February 10th: Schubert, Schubert, Beethoven. And the Beethoven “Razumovsky 1” at that… not that there is anything wrong with that. But it’s not the modern Beethoven à la op.135 which might have been the programmatically redeeming element served very severely at the end.

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F.Schubert, "Rosamunde" & "Death & Maiden" SQ4ts,
Takács Quartet

available at Amazon
L.v.Beethoven, "opp.59 & 74 SQ4ts,
Takács Quartet

The Brahms-Saal, if you haven’t been, looks and feels something like what an Egyptian sarcophagus must, from the inside, and with a similar average age of its contents. Or imagine a Russian oligarch with more money than sense who got to re-design Wigmore Hall after watching a 70s Hercules film: Doric columns in rusty red and emerald green stone tiles and gild plated carvings, cherubs, and Greek maidens (as pillars) everywhere. If it wasn’t hallowed traditional grounds, people would call for the wrecking ball.

The Schubert Quartettsatz the Takács Quartet performed up front was sprightly, lean, with a transparent—almost thin—sound, let by Edward Dusinberre’s first violin which allowed for half a grain of sand to fit between note played and note written. Not perfection, granted, but tension—to put a positive spin on it. The Rosamunde Quartet was calm, very similar to the Quartettsatz, with bone-dry attacks. Geraldine Walther’s viola sounded a bit tame and pale—or at least that of it which arrived at row eighteen. Despite several spark-attempts in the last movement of the Schubert, Rosamunde (or my ears, to give due credit subjectivity) did not catch fire.

The Takács Quartet has been formative in my appreciation of chamber music—Bartók and Beethoven string quartets in particular. This causes not only positive bias but also formidable expectations. They were not met in the Schubert… the Rosamunde I might privately even describe, without pretentions to objectivity or falsifiability, as boring. But in Beethoven’s op.59/1 I heard some of the old magic that I have memories of memories of [sic]. András Fejér’s spunky cello playing came to the fore and a bit of Beethovenian ruckus was in the air. Saving the by far best for last, the musicians gave Bartók’s pizzicato movement from the Fourth Quartet as an encore. They played it with all the funk that I remembered, too: it had me right back at the Freer Gallery, where I first heard that Quartet with the Takács, over a decade ago.

1 comment:

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