Takács Quartet reviewed in the West Australian
Neville Cohn, The West Australian
June 21, 2012
Czech composer Leos Janacek might not have had ideal domestic arrangements but they paled almost into insignificance compared with those described in Tolstoy’s famous story The Kreutzer Sonata, whose descriptions of illicit love, envy, vengefulness and murder sparked a burst of creativity in the musician. Janacek’s String Quartet No. 1, subtitled The Kreutzer Sonata, which it triggered, is one of the glories of the chamber music repertoire.
Its performance by the visiting Takacs Quartet was far more than an instance of skilled communication between musicians and audience. Rather, it came across as a profound form of communion between performers and composer. This is a rare phenomenon and all the more effective for that. The work seethes with violent emotion but it has moments of come-hither seductiveness as well and on all counts the Takacs players could not be faulted.
In one of the most adventurous programs this year from Musica Viva, we also listened to that rarity for Perth, Benjamin Britten’s Quartet No 1 which he wrote as young man in the US. As in so much that Britten wrote, his quartet brims with ideas of novel kinds and like some precocious wizard – he was still in his 20s when he wrote it – he casts an agreeable spell on the listener.
Here, too, the Takacs Quartet responded gratifyingly to the score with its ability to convey the grand design of the work without for a moment losing sight of its swarming detail which made its performance such a richly rewarding experience.
Also on the program was Gordon Kerry’s Variations for String Quartet which, on first hearing, fell most agreeably on the ear. It is most engaging, cleverly written music. How fortunate for any composer to have so august an ensemble as the Takacs players to launch it.
After setting out in a rather non-committal fashion, the Takacs ensemble’s account of Debussy’s Quartet took off to splendid effect. Much of the finale is, in its quiet way, probing and profoundly moving- and here the musicians were beyond reproach.