The six string quartets of Bela Bartok, composed over the span of three decades between 1908 and 1939, are among this century’s seminal works of art. Not only do they convey the essence of Bartok the man, but they also chart his growth and maturity as an artist and a humanist. As a set, these quartets represent the last of the line for the Classical style of quartet writing and are worthy to stand with the great quartet cycles of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. One can’t help but marvel at their formal architecture, fresh harmonic texture, vivid colors, piquant rhythm–and at the way Bartok the ethnomusicologist broadens the genre’s boundary by deftly introducing Hungarian and Near Eastern idioms. The entire body of his music, in fact, can be found microcosmically in these startlingly sophisticated quartets. It’s not often that all six are performed in one sitting; the Takacs String Quartet’s recital will be the first time it’s been done in Chicago. A youthful foursome trained at Budapest’s Liszt Academy, where Bartok once taught, the Colorado-based quartet are rising stars. I’ve yet to hear them live; in their recordings, they come across like the Budapest Quartet in their early days, with the same warm, dark tone and expansive lyricism. Scheduled during the intermission of the three-and-a-half-hour program is a discussion of Bartok’s music moderated by Lyric Opera’s composer-in-residence Bright Sheng. Sunday, 6:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 242-6237 or 663-1628.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Malcom Crowthers.