Takács Quartet/Hamelin at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

London Guardian
By Andrew Clements

Pre-empting next year's bicentenary, Schumann has been the featured composer in the Takács Quartet's London appearances this season. Having dispatched the string quartets, they branched out into chamber music with piano for their final concert, joining Marc-André Hamelin for a forthright account of the Piano Quintet.

In principle, the irrepressibility of the quintet suits Hamelin's attitude to Schumann perfectly, and in large stretches of the work the pianist's clarity paid real dividends when combined with the Takács' tight ensemble. Hamelin was in his element in the scherzo, for instance, and launched the finale's brief flirtation with a fugue with tremendous gusto. However, elsewhere there was the feeling that he was unwilling to allow the music the expressive latitude and flights into fantasy that the quartet seemed to sense it needed.

Before the quintet, the Takács had been free to follow their own instincts in early Beethoven and late Haydn, providing more proof of how peerless and effortlessly musical their performances are. Even an unwanted note from the mains hum seeping through the Queen Elizabeth Hall's loudspeaker system couldn't rob their playing of Beethoven's D major Quartet Op 18 No 3 of its immaculate poise.

In Haydn's F major work, Op 77 No 2, and the two movements of his very last quartet, Op 103 in D minor, they generated a remarkable intensity without ever appearing to strive for it. Both the tiptoeing slow movement of the F major, and the andante that would have been the second movement of Op 103, were unwrapped and polished perfectly.

© 2018 Takács Quartet