CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Takács with Hurdles

Getting to the National Gallery of Art in the nick of time is not advisable. Especially not if you don't like the idea of getting roughed up by security guard L. Jones. After being barked at, accused of lying, having my ID inspected twice, my guest refused entry, and being held up long enough to assuredly miss the beginning of the Haydn "Emperor" Quartet, op. 76, no. 3, I got to listen to the remainder from behind the curtains outside the West Garden Court. On the other side played the Takács quartet.

Also on ionarts:

Takács Marathon, Part II (October 17, 2005)

Takács Addiction (October 4, 2005)

Where's My Takács? (March 10, 2005)

Amazing Audial Alliteration: Borodin, Bartók, Beethoven (October 17, 2004)

Dip Your Ears, No. 8: Béla Bartók, The Six String Quartets, Takács Quartet (August 5, 2004)
There was serene beauty in the dampened sound of my national anthem - not only the playing (to the extent that one could tell) but also in the way the music trickled through from the other room. And although I hardly recommend the experience as such, it added an intriguingly melancholic character to that second movement (Poco adagio, cantabile) that went some way in calming my senses.

Borodin's second quartet in D major I last heard a year ago when the Takács gave a moving rendition at the Corcoran the day after the Corcoran's Chairman of the Board, Otto J. Ruesch, had passed away. I haven't sat in the back of the NGA's venue in a while. It is a healthy corrective and reminder that the sound is not as bad as we often complain: it's much worse. The tubby accoustic turned the (avowedly excellent, as trustworthy sources with better seats assured me) Borodin into a mush that belied the quality of the source. I wonder if the William Nelson Cromwell and F. Lammont Berlin Concerts - despite a glorious and prestigious 64-year tradition at their present location - might ever be moved into the larger and more appropriate space of the NGA's East Building Auditorium.

available at Amazon
L.v.Beethoven, Late String Quartets + op. 95,
Takács Quartet

Beethoven's op. 127 was the second half's offering, and you can't ask for much more than that. Having meandered a couple yards up, I had now a tree in front of my nose, but the sound was much better. So much better, indeed, that it allowed for judgement of the quartet's performance. At least since the Alban Berg Quartet, almost every quartet plays Beethoven with technical precision unheard of just half a century ago. The cold perfection of that approach is the Emerson Quartet who also added a smidgen aggression to the mix. Fairly agressive playing has since become the norm, too... not always to Beethoven's benefit. In the Takács you can hear all these trends, but thankfully they are either put in the service of the music (their usually perfect intonation and execution) or capped at a reasonable level. They stay on that side of energetic playing that is still called "vivacious" and "vibrant," not agressive. That they also have a soft side came out in the Adagio ma non troppo e molto cantabile, the first movement's first part. Violist Geraldine Walther, judging from the Beethoven, is starting to really fit in "with the boys" - it will be interesting to hear their gain in cohesion when they return to Washington for a concert at the Corcoran Gallery on March 31st.

Presto towards the finale. The Takács may be very good in the slow movements of op. 127, but they are superb when it gets a bit faster. (That's just one reason why it is nice to have a 'warmer' set of quartets next to the Takács - preferably the Vegh's second.) The finale itself sounded slightly rushed but lived up to the high expectations, still. The crowd met the performance with unanimous standing ovations.

No comments: