The Takács Quartet brought out the best in Dvořák, Webern, and Beethoven in the season closer for The Friends of Chamber Music.
In order to make music come to life, it is necessary to transcend the notes on the page and make a broader statement—exactly what the Takács Quartet accomplished in its concert last Friday to end the fortieth season of The Friends of Chamber Music. After a late string quartet by Dvořák and an interesting early Webern piece, the ensemble gave a rousing performance of a Beethoven quartet from the “Rasumovsky” collection, one of the composer’s middle works.
The idea of a “late work” is an appealing one in the world of classical music: often, in his or her last years, a composer will explore new techniques, write retrospectively, or offer some emotional content not appearing in earlier pieces. In the case of Antonín Dvořák, the late string quartets were possibly an expression of happiness to have returned to his native Czechoslovakia, with, as Laurie Schulman’s excellent program notes state, “Czech themes and dance rhythms.” In this performance, the No. 14 A-flat Major Quartet's first movement's imitative opening was sensitively shaped, and, later, the countermelody in the viola rose beautifully out of the texture. The Molto vivace movement, in the general form of the classical minuet and trio, was full of great contrasts; the way that the Takács Quartet performed these exciting contrasts made sense of the large form and created a wonderful effect.
One does not often think of Webern as a romantic composer, but he wrote Langsamer Satz before he went to study with Arnold Schoenberg, progenitor of the twelve-tone system; this piece is thus full of late-romantic harmonies, the world of Wagner and Strauss. Webern was always interested in counterpoint, but, in Langsamer Satz, that sense of well-formed counterpoint combines with lush harmony and meandering melody. The performers made sure to draw each line of music with a long, energetic stroke, such that it resembled a thread in a delicate web of expression.
The last piece on the program, Beethoven Op. 59, No. 3, was, like the first two, full of interesting contrasts: in the first movement, for instance, the sprightly figurations of the Allegro vivace were performed with remarkable lightness—an important interpretative decision, considering the stormy, darker portions of the piece. The last movement, fugal in nature, was a fitting finale, requiring the full technical resources—amply provided by the Takács Quartet—of each player. The high point of the concert truly arrived in this movement, and the buildup of excitement over the course of the Beethoven was palpable. By the end of the piece, all that was left was for the audience and performers to relish the impressive display of artistry by the Takács Quartet.