Takács Quartet and Pianist Garrick Ohlsson Entrance in Brahms Quintet

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Donald Rosenberg
March 20, 2013

The Takács Quartet long has been one of the most eloquent ensembles in the string-quartet world. The musicians apply such expressive depth and technical refinement to everything they touch that you wouldn't think more than the Takács on one program would be necessary.

But what's wrong with a little artistic icing on the chamber-music cake? On the second half of its concert Tuesday for the Cleveland Chamber Music Society at Plymouth Heights in Shaker Heights, the Takács welcomed pianist Garrick Ohlsson for a probing performance of Brahms' Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.

Ohlsson is hardly a stranger to Northeast Ohio. He last appeared in Cleveland two months ago as soloist in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Cleveland Orchestra.

But he is also a curious artist who takes pleasure in exploring more intimate musical realms. Unlike some soloists who occasionally play chamber music, Ohlsson confirmed Tuesday that he is more than willing to fulfill the demands of ensemble member.

Case in point: the piano lid was wide open in the Brahms quintet, yet Ohlsson maintained sure balances with his Takács colleagues. Every string and piano line in the score could be heard, and the musicians interacted with seamless cohesion.

What made the performance such an event was its pliant embrace of the music's passion and restraint. Ohlsson served as gleaming collaborator, moving in and out of textures in absorbing conversation with the Takács. The invigorating moments fairly danced, the lyrical passages sang and the finale ended in a flourish of collegial brilliance.

The Takács set the Brahmsian scene at program's start with the Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2, by acknowledging the need in this composer's music to encompass warmth and order.

Edward Dusinberre brought pinpoint articulation and exquisite shading to the first-violin part in fluent discourse with his peers -- violinist Karoly Schranz, violist Geraldine Walther and cellist Andras Fejer. Walther, former principal viola of the San Francisco Symphony, was especially vibrant blending and asserting herself in solo moments.

The ensemble filled in the Brahms bookends with Haydn's Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 76, No. 4, another inspired creation from the pen of the composer credited with establishing the string-quartet form.

Named the "Sunrise" for the ascending first-violin line near the start, the score abounds in Haydnesque vitality, wit and affection. The Takács relished the music's richness, as well as its harmonic and thematic surprises. The players proved ultra-dexterous in the quicksilver activity that ends the finale.

Happily, the Takács will be back next March, under the society's auspices, to play the six Bartok quartets. The group triumphed in these groundbreaking and strenuous works in one sitting in 2002 at Reinberger Chamber Hall in Severance Hall. Next year, the musicians will help out listeners (and, perhaps, themselves) by performing Bartok in two not-to-be-missed evenings.

© 2017 Takács Quartet