The Universal Music Group with their Australian Eloquence series continue
to delve into the back catalogues of major record labels Decca,
Philips, ABC Classics and Deutsche Grammophon.
From the Decca archives Eloquence have reissued these
performances by the Takács Quartet. This release is from the
original line-up of the Takács Quartet, who specialised in Haydn
Takács was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest,
Hungary by Gabor Takács-Nagy, Károly Schranz, Gabor Ormai and
András Fejér, when all four were students at the Academy. The
Takács is based in Boulder, Colorado, where it has been in residence
at the University of Colorado since 1983.
recording was made in 1989 and since then several changes have
occurred in the ensemble’s personnel. For the record, the Quartets
founder Gabor Takács-Nagy left in 1993 to pursue a solo career
and the original violist Gábor Ormai died in 1995. Two Englishmen
joined the Takács Quartet, the violinist Edward Dusinberre in
1993 and violist Roger Tapping in 1995. Of the original ensemble,
the Hungarian-born violinist Károly Schranz and cellist András
Fejér remain. After ten years service violist Roger Tapping
left the Quartet to be replaced by Geraldine Walther, principal
violist of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
The Op. 77 pair from 1799 were composed in response to a commission
from Prince Lobkowitz for a set of a projected six quartets,
of which only two were completed. The two ‘Lobkowitz’
quartets are performed splendidly with highly persuasive and sensitive playing.
Here the Takács convincingly communicate
Haydn’s range of experience from rustic earthiness, sociable wit and lyrical
Ill health prevented Haydn in 1803 completing his String Quartet in
D minor, Op. 103, his last attempt to write for the genre. The
Takács interpret the two completed middle movements with considerable
taste and eloquence. Especially well performed is the dignified
Andante grazioso in a finely blended interpretation that
provides a wealth of subtlety and wonderful expression.
These are fine performances from the youthful Takács. However
it would have been preferable for the Hungarian players to have
provided a touch more spontaneity and increased vivacity in
the Allegro movements, attributes that the Lindsays and
the Kodály admirably convey in their accounts.
My preferred version of these Opp. 77 and 103 quartets is the recent
release from the Lindsay Quartet, recorded in Wentworth, England in 2004,
on ASV Gold GLD4010 c/w String Quartet in D minor, Op. 42. In
my recent review I stated that the English-based Lindsays (who
have now disbanded) display spontaneity, excitement and high
integrity. They successfully blend a commitment and enthusiasm
that carries the listener along with the exhilaration of the
moment, together with appropriate measures of graciousness and
melancholy. There are ensembles around with a higher level of
security of ensemble than the Lindsays but very few with as
much genuine musical rapport with the composer.
Kodály, as part of their complete survey, provide
excellent versions of the two ‘Lobkowitz’ works
on Naxos 8.553146 and
the incomplete Op. 103 on 8.550346 c/w
The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ, Op. 51 (String
Quartet Version). The energetic Kodály offer a refreshing directness
to the scores and an impressive security of ensemble.
who prefer their performances on authentic instruments with
gut string and classical bows cannot go wrong with the accounts
of the Opp. 77 and 103 from Quatuor
Mosaďques. Founded in Vienna in 1985 Quatuor Mosaďques are an
alliance of Austrian and French players. The Mosaďques offer
detailed state-of-the-art interpretations that are high on precision
and intelligence, breathtaking sophistication and refinement.
Their recording, made in Vienna in 1989, is available from Astrée
Auvidis Naďve E 8799.
The liner notes here are from Misha Donat and are concise and highly
informative. The recorded sound is of high quality being clear
and well balanced. Fine performances from the Takács
but not an urgent addition to a collection.