Interview with Takács Quartet’s András Fejér – part 2

Similar in intensity, but less black, are Janáček’s First and Second String Quartets, which are also on the program for the Takács Quartet‘s forthcoming Australian tour. ‘Janáček is such a mix of Romantic quirkiness and strangeness,’ Fejér observes. ‘His thoughts are totally unexpected, even today. There’s a gorgeous melody which will bring tears to your eyes, and the next moment, without warning, a most chilling Hitchcockian cacophony.’

Janáček wrote the quartets close to the end of his life, when he was passionately in love with Kamila Stösslová, a woman 38 years his junior. ‘Obviously the emotions are totally extreme,’ says Fejér. ‘Not just the pain, but the type of love, the difference in age combined with the fact that both were married to someone else. We can probably say that if that didn’t generate extreme drama, then nothing would have.’

Ravel’s String Quartet, which he dedicated to his teacher Gabriel Fauré, generated drama of a different kind. Fauré initially dismissed the piece, which met with mixed critical response at its 1904 premiere. The Paris Conservatoire also rejected the work, but the dismissal caused a controversy which eventually helped Ravel’s career, and lead Fauré to reconsider his original negative assessment.

‘At the turn of the century, Paris was perhaps the most important centre of these new artistic movements,’ Fejér says. ‘It must have been an extremely exciting time. We giggle about the way Fauré dismissed the piece and then changed his mind. To us, this is the ultimate victory.’

Debussy was unconditionally supportive. ‘In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note you have written in your Quartet,’ he urged Ravel in 1905.

Debussy’s own String Quartet, written just over a decade earlier, had also met with mixed reactions when it was first performed. For the Takács Quartet, it is a piece which is often unnecessarily reigned in by a false assumption that French music needs to be performed with a kind of airy chill.

‘We especially enjoy emphasising the wild Romantic side of this French repertoire,’ says Fejér. ‘These people were full of passion, red hot emotion, and energy.’

Rounding off the Quartet’s tour program are the Variations of Musica Viva’s 2011 Featured Composer Gordon Kerry. ‘Musica Viva is absolutely right to suggest that we include the repertoire of Australian composers in our programs,’ Fejér says. ‘It’s fascinating for us, and the pieces often become part of other tours, not just to Australia.’

© Shirley Apthorp


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