Review: Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham

London Guardian
By Rian Evans
January 26, 2012

The Takács Quartet are matchless, their supreme artistry manifest at every level. In any quartet, players' individual traits are always apparent, yet, with the Takács, every facet of their musicianship serves the music in such a way that the character and personality of the composer emerges with extraordinary intensity. The most familiar music takes on a new purity and significance.

At their Pittville Pump Room recital, the Takács balanced works by Haydn and Dvořák of such genial disposition as to make the world seem a better place. Haydn's Lark Quartet, Op 64, No 5 was conceived as a vehicle for the brilliant violinist Johann Tost. Edward Dusinberre wears his virtuosity so lightly that it's easy to take it for granted, but this performance was remarkable for the differing tone-colours with which he invested successive violin themes, and the sympathetic responses of the other three voices pointing up the warp and weft of the musical fabric.

Affinities with Haydn were highlighted in Dvořák's Quartet in E flat major, Op 51, where textural complexities belie the lyrical ease of the melodic writing. The Dumka highlighted Dvořák's fertile imagination, while the Allegro finale's irrepressible energy set a radiant seal on proceedings.

Between these two, and forming the emotional core of the evening, came Britten's Third Quartet, written in 1975, the year before he died. Its five-movement form may be Bartók's, and the Burlesque recalls Shostakovich, but the work is quintessential Britten. The Takács imbued it with an atmospheric, elegiac quality. More moving still was the sense of a composer facing death and having the courage to look back on a creative life, quoting from his opera Death in Venice and ending on a questioning note, though with philosophical serenity rather than regret.

© 2018 Takács Quartet