Review: 11 November 2021 – Takács Quartet

  • Mozart String Quartet No.15 in D minor, K.421
  • Dutilleux String Quartet Ainsi La Nuit
  • Smetana String Quartet No.1 in E minor From My Life

We were privileged to be able to hear the internationally famous Takács Quartet live in the Forum Theatre. They perform eighty concerts a year worldwide; they have won many awards and medals for their performances and CDs, and their technical command and virtuosity was evident throughout this evening. On their last visit, in 1998, the quartet included cellist and founder member András Fejér and violinist Edward Dusinberre. Harumi Rhodes joined as second violin in 2018, and Grammy-award-winning violist Richard O’Neill last year.

Of course, music in a minor key is not necessarily sad, but the first movement of Mozart’s D minor String Quartet conveys, to me, a strong sense of sadness or melancholy. The Takács Quartet’s interpretation was exceptionally soft, with romantic rubato that demonstrated their very fine ensemble playing. They continued to give us this very expressive interpretation through the stately second movement minuet and trio and the pastoral theme and variations of the final movement.

I had not heard Ainsi La Nuit by Dutilleux before. Its movements, played without breaks, were full of contrasts of every kind and included an extraordinary range of performing effects, densely packed, in which the members of the quartet showed their great individual and joint technical skills. Sometimes floating, sometimes in passages of brief turmoil, the music was exciting and this was a marvellous opportunity to hear it for the first time.

The quartet continued to demonstrate their versatility as they rounded off their programme with Smetana’s E minor String Quartet. As the programme explained, Smetana had been shattered by tinnitus followed by sudden deafness, and it was in that state that he composed this quartet, helping to regain confidence to continue composing. The music is romantic and joyful, and the Takács Quartet gave us a skilful and truly enjoyable performance. This concert was of the very highest standard. It was dedicated it to Peter Thomas, our former Secretary, who did so much for the Club.

Malcolm Macleod