A single purpose: the Takács Quartet at the Wigmore Hall

Ludwig van Beethoven String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 130
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart String Quintet in G minor, K516

Takács Quartet
Louise Williams
viola

For their return to the Wigmore Hall, the Takács Quartet were not afraid of tackling two towering works of the chamber music repertoire. There might have been a degree of uncertainty over whether other ensembles would be capable of pulling off such monumental works. But having played together since 1975 (though admittedly in various different line-ups), there is cohesion in the Takács Quartet’s playing that few can rival.

Takacs QuartetThis unity between players is crucial for Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 130 – a work representative of the composer’s late style. Written in six movements (instead of the normal four), Beethoven creates a deliberate sense of dissociation. Not just between movements but also within the movements themselves. In the first movement, for example, the melodies are brief, prevented from ever developing into a fully-fledged tune. The frequent switch between adagio and allegro (slow and fast) adds to its fragmentary nature.

Op. 130 is a fluid work, and it would be easy for an ensemble to lose their way. Yet the Takács Quartet played with a single purpose. Most impressive was their ability to change mood in sync with each other, a rare skill requiring far more subtlety and than playing the right notes together at the right time.

I was slightly disappointed on finding that the Takács Quartet were not going to play the original Große Fugue that Beethoven wrote to conclude the work. This monumental movement was replaced by a newly composed finale at the bequest of Beethoven’s publishers who found the fugue too complex. Though its replacement is more delicate, the Takács Quartet proved that it too has moments of extremes. For in his replacement finale Beethoven did not abandon the fugue completely. He inserts an extended fugal passage in the movement’s central section. The Takács treated this to their full power, proving that this replacement movement can be ferocious too.

Working as a single entity did not mean that the voices in Takács Quartet merged completely. Moments given to the middle texture were cherished, including Geraldine Walther’s glimpse of melody in the viola part during Op. 130’s third movement. And with the added viola in Mozart’s Quintet in G minor, K516, the middle texture was further emphasised. This added resonance was appreciated in the Quintet’s slow movement. Opening with warm, soft chords, the pure pleasure of the Takács’ sound gripped the audience.

The Wigmore Hall will attract many high-flying artists. But with their Associate Artists, the Takács Quartet, we might already have seen the highlight of the 2014-15 season.

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  1. Reblogged this on I Write The Music.

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