Author: Peter Alexander

SHARPS AND FLATIRONS: Takacs Quartet and McDonald shine in 2016 opener

Critic Peter Alexander says the concert is “a musical experience unlikely to be duplicated.”

Engrossing performances of Beethoven, Janáček and Elgar.

Yesterday afternoon (Jan. 10) the Takacs Quartet and pianist Margaret McDonald gave an engrossing performance of an unusual and fascinating program.

For their first concert of 2016, the Takacs presented three works: Beethoven’s genial first string quartet, the Quartet in D major, op. 18 no. 3; Leoš Janáček’s spiky Sonata for violin and piano, played by first violinist Edward Dusinberre with McDonald; and everyone together for Edward Elgar’s brooding, late-Romantic Piano Quintet in A minor.

The program will be repeated tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall of the Imig Music Building. Call 303-492-8008 for ticket availability.

I found this a particularly engaging concert in part because of it’s remarkable and wide-ranging variety. Think about it: every piece had a different combination of players; every piece represented a starkly different style (in spite of the fact that the Janáček and Elgar pieces were written within four years of one another); and every piece was played with the full interpretive commitment and musical integrity of a world-class chamber ensemble.

The Beethoven quartet, which opened the program, was an opportunity for the Takacs to show why they are considered one of the world’s leading quartets. They play with great precision and near-perfect intonation, but many quartets do that. But listen to the balance of the chords that close the exposition of the first movement, where you hear the entire chord, not a punctuating “thump.” Listen to the clarity of the interchange among the parts in the development section, where you can hear cleanly through the texture, with no important part covered. It is as if the music were produced by a single artistic mind, a feat not easily accomplished.

The third movement, with its unexpected transitions and slightly off-balance feel, never went awry, and the virtuosic finale rushed along with great exhilaration right to the surprising and humorous ending—Beethoven was a student of Haydn!—without ever feeling strained. It’s a genial and charming piece, with just a bit of Beethoven’s rough-hewn character, and the performance was utterly convincing in every detail.

Janáček’s Sonata for violin and piano of 1914 was written in the middle of Eastern Europe in the tense months before the outbreak of the First World War. The music seems to reflect the tension of the times, but Janáček’s highly individual music is written in such fragmentary bursts of feeling and mood that it often sounds as though some dangerous drama is about to unfold.

The Sonata is…

Read the full article by Peter Alexander here.

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