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BARTOK String Quartet No 6
Takacs Quartet - Lecture Recital. Wigmore Hall 5 May 2003

An extended festival in honour of William Lyne is approaching its conclusion with his retirement at the end of this month.

There is a large clientele for educational events at Wigmore Hall, and in recognition of their success (usually in the Bechstein Room & often sold out) it is good that this evening's event was included in the Director's Festival umbrella.

A substantial audience came on a fine evening to follow an analysis of a not unfamiliar masterwork, which was to be included in the following evening's recital.

The Takacs Quartet had been associated with music of its countrymen Dvorak, Smetana and Bartok since their early days (in 1978 they won the Portsmouth (now London) International String Quartet Competition). Their Decca recording of all the Bartok quartets had the 2002 Gramophone Award for chamber music.

I had the illuminating experience of attending one of their recording sessions in 1988 (Haydn Op 76 1-3, Decca 421 360-2) and interviewing the cellist Andras Fejer (founder member, still with them) at the Wigmore Hall. There I was able to see the quartet's unique rehearsal technique, with three members of the quartet on stage playing, whilst a fourth (ringing the changes) listened and commented. No detail escaped their scrutiny, whether for concert or when recording. l

Leader Edward Dusinberre warned us against putting too much weight upon the circumstances of its composition, the last he began working on in Paul Sacher's chalet in Switzerland during the summer of 1939, before leaving Europe; his mother dying in doomed Hungary, etc (the greater part of one national newspaper's review of the next day's concert was lifted from the account of that background in the programme notes).

Dusinberre concentrated instead upon illustrating the motivic developments of the motto theme which begins each movement and is expanded into the great slow finale. Good audibility (sometimes a problem in talk events) was ensured with a hand microphone. Cross referencing and comparisons with passages in late Beethoven were brought out, with the same material at different speeds masking their derivations.

The illustrations were put across by the quartet with force and unanimity, arising from long familiarity with a work which they find inspiring and satisfying to perform, despite its melancholy underlying moods of regret for times passing.

Having given us this analysis, Edward Dusinberre conveyed some doubts about the format of lecture-recitals, in particular the dangers of 'received opinion' and he urged us to forget all the connections he had displayed and to 'forget' it during the interval and just listen to the music as music.

However, we returned for the full performance with primed awareness of aspects which otherwise would have passed us by. The current Takacs Quartet (now two Hungarians, two Englishmen - Edward Dusinberre, Karoly Schranz, Roger Tapping & Andras Fejer) is in excellent collective health. They played with full tone and an understanding of Bartok second to none; we departed well satisfied

© Peter Grahame Woolf