The Sunday Times

Hyperion CDA67987, released April 2015

The great Soviet composer's chamber music is new to the discography of the Takács, arguably the world's most versatile string quartet. Here they strike up a tingling rapport with one of Hyperion's 'house' pianists: sparks fly between the French-Canadian and the British/Hungarian string players, especially in the sizzling Scherzo and witty Allegretto Finale, even if they don't plumb the melancholic depths of Sviatoslav Richter and the Borodins in their famous reading. The turbulent A major Quartet makes one hanker for more.

The New York Times
By David Allen
February 27, 2015

From even the most prominent of string quartets, a program of Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven might come across as stolid. After all, there are so many foursomes around now that scoff at every kind of boundary, from the JACK and the Kronos to the Ébène and the Danish. But the Takacs Quartet always shows that there is, and must be, room for insightful, intense performances of major works. That was its achievement in a superb appearance at Alice Tully Hall on Thursday: revealing the familiar as unfamiliar, making the most traditional of works feel radical once more.

In Schubert’s “Quartettsatz” in C minor (D. 703), for instance, an emaciated tone from the violist Geraldine Walther and the cellist Andras Fejer transformed what are often just fretful passages into something much more profoundly unstable, while the genial support of the second violinist, Karoly Schranz, made Edward Dusinberre’s contrasting, songful violin line all the sweeter.

Chicago Tribune
By Alan G. Artner
October 17, 2014

The Takács Quartet and pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin opened the chamber music season at Orchestra Hall Thursday night with an irresistible display of how to perform Belgian and French masterworks.

The common approach long has been to emphasize lightness, balance and clarity at the expense of everything else. But that didn't happen Thursday.

Instead, the players took Cesar Franck and Claude Debussy at their word, fervently following directives for passion, sweetness and drama as if "national characteristics" were less important than human red-bloodedness. And that combined with exceptional technical accomplishment made all the difference.

The New York Times
By Zachary Woolfe
January 21, 2014

The Takács Quartet played Bartok, long one of its specialties, in two superb concerts over the weekend at Zankel Hall. Not only was the music making excellent, but I was also reminded throughout the performances of the clean, resonant acoustics of this subterranean space, which is celebrating its 10th season.

On Sunday afternoon, both an impassioned cello line and its glassy accompaniment sounded lucid and balanced in the icy expanse of the Fourth Quartet’s central slow movement, just one of many moments in which Zankel ideally amplified the Takács ensemble’s clear, lithe sound. But acoustics are nothing without gifted musicians to fill them, and this group played with febrile attack and firm confidence, even in swerves like the end of the Sixth Quartet’s opening movement, when vivacious bustle turns abruptly to a delicate conclusion.

London Guardian
By Fiona Maddocks
April 26, 2014

Takács Quartet, Lawrence Power (viola) — Hyperion

The soaring, optimistic opening of Brahms's String Quintet No 2 in G major, Op 111 is one of the great moments in chamber music: upper strings, enriched with the addition of a second viola, shimmer and quiver, while the cello utters a plunging, jumping melody in G major. This mood of excitement continues, with a magnificent, lyrical violin tune, almost without let-up – a wistful, minor key second subject notwithstanding – to the end of this long, burgeoning first movement. It's reason enough to try this inspiring Takács Quartet disc with Lawrence Power as guest viola, his big-boned sound matching the expressive energy of the Takács's own Geraldine Walther. The String Quintet No 1 in F major is less driven, more wistful and just as captivating.

The Sunday Times
May 18, 2014

Shostakovich's weighty, mournful String Quartet No. 2 in A "a sort of Jewish lament" formed an understated symmetry with Beethoven's Op. 132 in A minor, with its thanksgiving song and use, like Shostakovich's second movement, of violin recitatives; while in-between came the ear-cleansing distillation of Beethovenian classicism that is Webern's Five Movements, Op. 5. I've never been more impressed and moved by the Takacs than in its endlessly thoughtful reading of the Beethoven, the individual lines seeming maximally liberated yet impeccable cohesive.

The Strad
By David Denton
March 3, 2014

Having passed through a period when I favoured the exceptionally dramatic view of Britten’s three quartets from the Belcea Quartet (EMI), I found more to enjoy with the arrival of a literal approach to the printed scores from the Maggini Quartet (Naxos). Now we have the best of both worlds in this new recording from the Takács Quartet.

Although at times the players employ daringly fast tempos, as in the opening movement of the First Quartet, their clarity and rhythmic exactitude remove any sense of undue haste. The third movement is also taken much quicker than in the Maggini’s more intense reading, and by lightening the texture they lessen the contrast with a finale that can easily sound frothy in other hands.

The Sunday Times
By Hugh Canning
October 28, 2012

A Schubert quintet from arguable the greatest string quartet before the public today will have been long awaited, and it is characteristic of the Takács that they have held off until now, presumably after many performances with the chosen cellist colleague, Ralph Kirshbaum. The recording — wonderfully vivid and "present" — is all that one expects from the producer, Andrew Keener, and the quality of the playing and musical insights is superlative. Written during the last year of the composer's brief life, this awesome work remained unpublished and unperformed until 22 years after his death — like the "Great" C major Symphony, an "Alpine" peak that none of Shubert's contemporaries dared to climb. Lasting five minutes short of an hour, it remains one of the largest of chamber works, and most dramatic in conception: the ailing composer seems riven with turbulence in the opening allegro ma non troppo and the defiant scherzo, yet calmly serene in the outer section of the sublime adagio. The sonorities the Takács players and Kirshbaum bring to this great music are quasi-orchestral, but they convey the intimate pages of the score in a manner that is both soul-baring and deeply moving. The famous Quartet Movement from an unfinished work in C minor has rarely been delivered with such febrile intensity.

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.

Washington Post
By Anne Midgette
November 14, 2012

There’s no checklist of the elements that make up a good musical performance, but one thing I find myself focusing on more and more these days is delight. It’s easy for a musician to lose sight of delight, particularly in great works about serious things. But even serious music is often delightful. We listen, in part, for those moments when a score smiles unexpectedly and frees itself from the earth’s gravity.

And if I had to pin down just what it was that made the Takács Quartet’s performance at the Library of Congress on Tuesday night quite so wonderful, I’d call it delight. Not that it was a particularly funny or light-hearted program: Schubert’s “Rosamunde” quartet (his 13th); Benjamin Britten’s coltish, ardent, sprawling first quartet; and Shostakovich’s piano quintet, with the marvelous pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin. And not that the musicians made light of it. But they did keep something in reserve, so that rather than merely pouring their hearts into the notes, they left themselves, and their listeners, enough room to savor them. So when Edward Dusinberre, the first violinist, floated a clear line over the warmer sound of Karoly Schranz’s second violin in the Schubert, there was an extra frisson to the “aha!” moment.

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