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Author: Peter Alexander

BOULDER WEEKLY: Grammy nominees take the stage

Takács Quartet explores new repertoire.

The Takács Quartet has such a long and distinguished history, has performed and recorded so much music, that it is surprising to learn there is major repertoire that has not appeared on their programs.

In fact, their list of unplayed works will shrink by two at their performances Sunday and Monday in Grusin Music Hall. And unsurprisingly, neither is for string quartet alone: The Takács and pianist Margaret McDonald will perform Edward Elgar’s Quintet for piano and string quartet; and McDonald and first violinist Edward Dusinberre will present Leo Janácek’s Sonata for violin and piano.

Completing the program will be Beethoven’s String Quartet in D major, op. 18 no. 3.

This will be the first concert by the Takács following the announcement in December that their album with pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet and String Quartet No. 2 has been nominated for a Grammy Award. It is their fifth nomination and will be their second award if they win. The Grammy Awards will be presented Feb. 15.

“We’re always trying to combine music that’s very much our standard repertoire with newer things,” Dusinberre says. “It’s fun with (Elgar and Janácek), since they’re written at a similar time around the First World War, and the musical language couldn’t be more different.”

The earlier work, the Janácek Sonata, was written in 1914, at a time of great tension just before the war broke out in Central Europe, near where the Czech composer was living. In contrast, the Elgar Quintet was written in 1918, as the war was nearly over, in a relatively safe corner of England.

It would be tempting to see those differences reflected in the music each composer wrote: Janácek’s unstable and edgy, Elgar’s comfortably Victorian and nostalgic. But Dusinberre thinks that would be too easy an explanation.

“You can say the composers are influenced by the world events — how could they not be?” he says. “But their musical identities formed well before the First World War, so (their musical styles were) as much a feature of their individual temperaments as of world events…

Read Peter Alexander’s full concert preview in Boulder Weekly.

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