Lately several renowned string quartets have undergone key personnel changes: the Juilliard, famed for its periodic metamorphoses, is doing just fine; the Tokyo has yet to find the right blend; and the Takacs, amazingly, has reinvented itself for the better. Founded in 1975 in Budapest, the quartet made a splash a decade later with a landmark recording of the six quartets of its countryman Bela Bartok, proffering a less austere and abrasive reading than the Juilliard, which presented him as a paragon of modernism. The Takacs’s lyricism, representing the central European school of string playing at its most passionate, served as a refreshing antidote to the overly intellectual interpretations favored by the Juilliard and its disciples. The Hungarians invested 20th-century works with warmth and an elasticity that emphasized phrasing over rigid rhythms. Then, four years ago, founder and first violinist Gabor Takacs-Nagy left, and shortly thereafter violist Gabor Ormai died. In replacing them, the Takacs turned half British and took residencies at conservatories in London and at the University of Colorado. Violinist Edward Dusinberre and violist Roger Tapping, who joined violinist Karoly Schranz and cellist Andras Fejer, are well versed in the Takacs approach, as the quartet’s second take on the Bartok six (on London Records) demonstrates. Its playing is sharper now, more expressively dramatic than ever. In the pungently dissonant Quartet no. 4, which the Takacs will play at this recital, the five-movement arch form is unfolded with majestic ease and its harsh harmonies are given hothouse intensity. Also on the program, predictably, are Mozart’s Quartet no. 20, the Hoffmeister; and Beethoven’s Quartet in E Minor, op. 59, no. 2. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Ken Abbott.