Review: Takacs String Quartet, Snape Proms, August 17

The Takacs Quartet, who performed at the Snape Proms Photo: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

The Takacs Quartet, who performed at the Snape Proms Photo: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado - Credit: University of Colorado

The Tacaks is one of the best known and most highly regarded of all performing string quartets and this recital demonstrated exactly why. In a judicious choice of programme they took quartets from familiar classical and romantic composers but, in avoiding easy or obvious choices, they presented many of us with new and refreshing listening.

Mozart’s three late Prussian quartets tend to be overshadowed by the six dedicated to Haydn but the first of the Prussian in D, K575, has an easy grace and charm that is extremely beguiling. The King of Prussia himself was a good amateur cellist and Mozart gives the instrument some starring passages, notably in the trio of the Menuetto. Long-serving cellist Andras Fejer took his moments in the sun with aplomb and elsewhere provided the most secure and sympathetic of foundations. Leader Edward Dusinberre’s tone and intonation were as sweet as one could wish for and both Geraldine Walther and Harumi Rhodes on viola and violin respectively made crisp and pointed contributions to a beautifully shaped performance.

Dvorak was a good string player and he wrote several string quartets. His E flat quartet of 1879 has many of the characteristic melodic and rhythmic features of the mature composer but overall the work does not quite compare with his best. The players were alert to the frequent changes of mood and colour and were particularly successful with the passages of Slavonic dance. The syncopated rhythms that permeate the work gave the performance an extra degree of elan.

The easy elegance of so much of Mendelssohn’s music might suggest a life of comfort and happiness. Certainly he had few material concerns but his later years, particularly, were clouded by mental and physical illness. The F minor quartet was his last significant work and is overshadowed by the death of his sister, Fanny. The mood is often one of anger and despair with much use of tremolo and furious scale passages. Dusinberre gave a virtuoso performance of exceptional intensity but the other players were just as outstanding, every passage and interjection perfectly timed and leading to an exhilarating conclusion.

Gareth Jones

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