Takács String Quartet

Schubert: String Quartets Nos. 13 & 14

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In its first disc for Hyperion, the Takács Quartet takes on central repertoire works that it had strangely so far left unrecorded: Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" and "Rosamunde" quartets. The once all-Hungarian then half-English, half-Hungarian ensemble had already recorded quartets by Haydn, Dvorák, and, of course, Beethoven for Decca, but not until its 2006 Hyperion debut did it turn to quartets by Schubert. It seems a natural combination. On this disc, the quarter-America, quarter-English, half-Hungarian quartet based in Aspen tears into Schubert's quartets with the kind of passionate intensity that refutes the received wisdom that Schubert's quartets were somehow lesser Beethoven quartets. The Takács' attack in the opening Allegro of the D minor "Death and the Maiden" is unrelenting even when the tempo is surprisingly agile. But while some listeners might object to first violinist Edward Dusinberre's phrasing in his solo transitions into the second theme, no one could say that his extravagant tempo rubato did anything to impede the headlong progress of the music. Likewise, while some might say that the group's tempo is too quick in the central Andante con moto and that the tone is altogether too wiry, no one could say this extreme expressivity did anything to diminish the emotional impact of the music. For listeners who already know the Takács' earlier recordings, this disc will be self-recommending. For new listeners, this disc will be a superb introduction to the quartet. Hyperion's recording is uncharacteristically but not unpleasantly close and warm.

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