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Where's My Takács?

Drawing by Robert Caney: "Stage Set With Paintings And Statues", Picture courtesy National Gallery of Art

I myself had touted the Takács Quartet's appearance at the National Gallery of Art "the greatest chamber music event of 2005" for over half a year. But, somehow, the word about the formidable Takács must have gotten out far beyond that, because the line for the free Sunday concert in the NGA's West Garden Court extended out of the building and had to be cut off. What a curious surprise then, after all that anticipation, to see a piano on stage; an instrument rarely used in the Bartók string quartets. My fever had played no tricks on me: it was the right date, the right venue... but unfortunately the Takács Quartet had to cancel their appearance due to sickness of one of its members.

Hats off to Claudia Chudacoff (violin), Marie-France Lefebvre (piano), and Nathaniel Chaitkin (cello), three Washington Chamber Players, who bravely jumped in on a couple of days' notice. They presented Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Piano, Mendelssohn's Second Piano Trio (C minor, op. 66), and a work that I thought particularly delightful, Gaspar Cassadó's Sonata for Cello and Piano. A work of considerable beauty and filled with pleasant Spanish accents, it had a delectable Paso-doble to offer as its last movement (even including the dances' foot stomp) and made for some consolation and a pleasant new musical acquaintance.

The concert went some way to console me for the missed, last opportunity to see the Takács Quartet in the formation with which they have dazzled me before, both in concert (Freer, Corcoran) and on disc (Beethoven, Bartók). To see one more of their unparalleled Bartók performances with Roger Tapping, their violist, who will leave for a teaching position at some northeastern music school (it has escaped me which one) in the summer, would have made my day after a week of battling a bronchitis with a vengeance. (Mr. Tapping can't be replaced, but the new violist for the Takács Quartet will be Geraldine Walther, erstwhile assistant principal violist of the Pittsburgh- and principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony.)

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