London Times Review: Takács Quartet at Wigmore Hall, W1

The Times
by Geoff Brown
May 17, 2017

There may be more medically precise quartets, but I’d plump for Takács’s fire any day over performances laid on a surgical slab


There’s nothing special about the way the Takács Quartet programme Beethoven’s string quartets. An early one, a middle one, a late one: and voilà, home and dry. But is there anything routine about their playing? Absolutely not. Often it takes just the first notes — and Beethoven’s openings are famously arresting — for the audience’s heart to leap.

In the first of a trio of Beethoven recitals, the chords that launched Op 127 presented this ensemble in a nutshell. The tone was full, fervent and, as the dog food adverts once said, “enriched with marrowbone jelly”. After 42 years’ existence, the make-up of this group may be only half-Hungarian, but the bones of their sound still lie in the dark throb of András Fejér’s cello and the lurching vitality of the second violinist, Károly Schranz, who doesn’t sit still for a moment. This pair could easily slip into a gypsy band.

The other players, one British, one American, bring their own colours to the spectrum. The first violinist, Edward Dusinberre, is the silvery bird, flying high; Geraldine Walther adds viola warmth, although from my position on the right of the hall I sometimes had to take the glow on trust. The Takács genius has always been to marry individuality of tone with absolute unity as an ensemble, demonstrated especially in the extraordinarily liquid rush of the Op 127 scherzo, the hurtling finale to Op 18 No 3, and many spots in between.

Quartet musicians more medically precise might have sliced up these racing notes with brighter articulation, but I’d plump for Takács fire any day over performances laid on a surgical slab. In any case, the group at high speed occupied only one part of a masterfully judged kaleidoscope. Slow movements reached their peak in the radiant bliss of the adagio from Op 59 No 2, with Op 127’s banquet of variations not far behind.



© 2018 Takács Quartet