by James Leonard
If they're the Takács Quartet, where's Takács?
It's like this. When violinists Gabor Takács-Nagy and Károly Schranz, violist Gabor Ormai, and cellist András Fejér were students together at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, they started a string quartet. Because Takács-Nagy was first violinist, they named themselves the Takács Quartet. After a series of international tours and a string of recordings for the Hungarian Hungaroton label and the British Decca label, Takács-Nagy left in 1993, and English violinist Edward Dusinberre took the first violin chair. Then, when Gabor Ormai died in 1995, English violist Roger Tapping took his chair. Although the Takács was now based in London and had two English members, the players kept the by-then-world-renowned name.
After a decade of service and more but quite different recordings for Decca, Tapping left, and American violist Geraldine Walther took his chair. Since 2005, founding members Schranz and Fejér along with Dusinberre and Walther have been based in Boulder, where the Takács is quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado, and in 2006 they started making records for the British Hyperion label.
And where's Takács? Since 1997, Gabor Takács-Nagy has been professor of string quartet at the Conservatoire Supérieur in Geneva.
Ann Arbor chamber music fans are already familiar with the differences between the all-Hungarian Takács Quartet, the half-English, half-Hungarian Takács Quartet, and the quarter-English, quarter-American, half-Hungarian Takács Quartet. The all-Hungarian incarnation made its UMS debut way back in 1984. The half-Hungarian, half-English version made its debut here fifteen years later and appeared every season after that until last season, when the quarter-English, quarter-American, half-Hungarian version played.
For those who aren't caught up, the sound of the current Takács Quartet can be summed up in three words: impasto, patina, and dollop. With Schranz and Fejér, the Takács kept its funky Hungarian impasto intact. With Dusinberre, the Takács added a fine patina of English poeticism. And with Walther, it appended a big dollop of American warmth.
In its program on Friday, January 12, at Rackham Auditorium, the Takács will perform three of the finest string quartets ever written in minor keys: Brahms' moody and magnificent Quartet in A Minor, Mozart's baleful and doleful Quartet in D Minor, and Beethoven's transcendent Quartet in A Minor, with its sublime "Heiliger Dankgesang" ("Holy Song of Thanksgiving"). If all goes well, bliss is assured.
[Review published January 2007]
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