Takács Quartet reviewed in the Australian

Musical advocacy of most persuasive order
Mark Coughlan, The Australian
June 21, 2012

FOR an ensemble such as the Takacs Quartet, which consistently receives rave reviews in the world’s leading journals, one should always expect music-making at the highest level. Judging by this concert at the Perth Concert Hall, the quartet, whose relationship with Australia spans three decades, is in top form.

For me, the most telling aspect of the concert was the way the quartet comprehensively swept away any reservations about the programming to deliver a most persuasive and compelling musical experience. My concerns that the first string quartets of Janacek and Britten might not make such a satisfying pairing in the first half were ill-founded.

The Takacs is a powerful advocate for these works, bringing a unifying narrative thread to the music’s often fragmentary progress and shaping the works in such a way as to lead the audience through every twist and turn in the musical journey.

In the Janacek, each thematic idea and contrasting episode was sharply defined with a distinct musical character and tone colour. The players have a formidable control over their sound and create the most impressive array of beautifully blended sonorities. In the opening passage of the Britten, the high ethereal writing had none of the cool blandness one often hears; it was played with a warmth and subtle energy that brought a sense of inner life to the music. The slow third movement was perfectly judged in its serenity and powerful expressiveness and was the highlight of the night. The quartet concludes with an exuberant finale that was full of playful good humour.

Hearing this work as a series of four vividly painted tableaus, I was struck that these musicians were, above all, great storytellers.

After the interval, we heard Gordon Kerry’s Variations for String Quartet, a sunny and endearing work that made an excellent contrast to the intensity of the first half. Its gentle lyricism and amicably dovetailing lines were captured with a high degree of finesse. The first two movements of Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor were given an animated and highly charged reading with brisk tempos that built up considerable musical momentum. The third movement, by contrast, was breathtaking in its stillness and ravishing tonal sheen, a perfect vehicle for demonstrating, yet again, the effortless artistry of the Takacs Quartet.

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