Reliving Schubert's Classic Tussle With Death

The New York Times
By Vivien Schweitzer
October 18, 2010

Many composers, Stravinsky notably among them, have been inspired by earlier styles and works, which they weave through a contemporary prism. Daniel Kellogg is a current example, reimagining the scores of others in his works.

Mr. Kellogg's striking "Soft Sleep Shall Contain You: A Meditation on Schubert's 'Death and the Maiden' " for string quartet, had its New York premiere at the 92nd Street Y on Saturday evening, and the rich performance by the Takács Quartet revealed its subtleties. His intelligently wrought and harmonically intriguing work, which he wrote for the Takács Quartet, which is in residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Mr. Kellogg teaches, echoes a famous quartet by Schubert, opening with chords that slowly unfold and evoke the song "Death and the Maiden."

In the original quartet the tension between the Grim Reaper and the maiden is expressed by the tussle between the violin and the cello in the Andante's variations. Mr. Kellogg conveys that dance of death in the clash between G and F sharp, which casts a dissonant pall over the opening section. During the more robust interlude that follows, a simmering tension contrasts with exuberant outbursts. Schubert's themes are woven through the work, which concludes with a beautiful chorale.

The sensitivity and commitment the Takács players displayed in Mr. Kellogg's work also rendered their performance of Schubert's, "Death and the Maiden" Quartet, which came next, a potent experience. Their complex and intense interpretation illuminated every nuance of the work, from the driving rhythms of the opening Allegro to the bristling savagery of the Presto.

The program opened with a vivid reading of Schubert's "Quartettsatz" in C minor, the only movement of a planned quartet that he completed. The melodies unfolded graciously in the highly capable hands of Edward Dusinberre, the ensemble's first violinist.

The program also included Schubert's Piano Sonata in B flat (D. 960). The young pianist Benjamin Hochman replaced the originally scheduled Jeffrey Kahane, who had withdrawn because of illness. Mr. Hochman played sensitively, but the performance seemed tame at times and lacked power, particularly in light of the Takács Quartet's intensity.

© 2018 Takács Quartet