Recording: Schumann Op. 41 #3, and Piano Quintet Op. 44

Gramophone Magazine
By David Threasher

Outstanding musicianship and virtuosity abound on this stunning disc

If I could play the piano like Marc-André Hamelin, I'd want to blare out my virtuosity at every opportunity. That Hamelin himself does precisely the opposite is yet again testament to his profound musicianship. He and the Takács Quartet have been touring with Schumann's Piano Quintet and this shows in the deep rapport they demonstrate in this recording of the work. Not that Hamelin isn't centre stage, with the Quartet deployed widely across the stereo spectrum; but the sense is of true chamber interplay between fice equals. Hamelin scampers and thunders by turns but not once does he upstage the string players. The direct comparison is with Leif Ove Andsnes and the Artemis Quartet, winners of the Gramophone Chamber Music Award last year, and the new recording runs them close. Hamelin and the Takács take a more rhapsodic approach to tempi and rubato but, like their rivals, keep clear sight of the work's large-scale structure. While no one will prise Andsnes from my sweaty palms in a hurry, Hamelin and the Takács will remain within easy reach for some time, I'm sure.

The Takács also come up against an Award-winner (Disc of the Year, no less, in 2003) with their performance of the A major Quartet, and once again acquit themselves admirably. The Hyperion recorded sound is the more spacious--ECM might well have stuck microphones up the noses of the Zehetmairs, so visceral is their sound world--and once again the Takács revel in the classic logic of Schumann's vision, in contrast to the German group's mercurial response to the composer's blazing inspiration. That this disc simply gets better and better on repeated listening is ample recommendation.

© 2018 Takács Quartet