Excellent performances by the Takács Quartet of Mozart and Beethoven; and, with Jeremy Denk, a delightful romp through Ernö Dohnányi’s Opus 1.
Mozart was struggling financially when he secured a commission from the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II, yet none of his angst found its way into the cheerful and relaxed K575, the first of the three ‘Prussian’ Quartets. The Takács members’ playing was appropriately light and conversational, each line tonally colorful. As Friedrich II was an amateur cellist, Mozart gave the instrument a prominent role, András Fejér in excellent form.
A similarly optimistic mood pervades Beethoven’s Opus 135, although it was composed while he was troubled by monetary and family problems, and is much shorter and less densely textured than the other four ‘late’ Quartets (starting with Opus 127). The Allegretto is cut from a Classical mold, with echoes of Haydn and Mozart, a connection that was tangible here. The witty dialogue was carried off brilliantly, and also in the ensuing rapid-fire Scherzo in which Harumi Rhodes’s syncopations were highly effective; the Trio was wilder still, Edward Dusinberre’s leaping figures dancing merrily. The slow movement was glorious, a lighter-than-air atmosphere created. Then to the Finale, beginning with the Grave introduction corresponding to the composer’s epigraphic “Muss es sein?” (Must it be?) followed by the Allegro response “Es muss sein!” (It must be!). The players captured the humor in Beethoven’s toying with the latter motif, right through to the jocular pizzicatos just prior to the coda.
The Dohnányi was clearly influenced by Schumann and Brahms, earning praise from the latter. The performers brought out the work’s high spirits (not least in the Finale) as well as its Magyar influences. Denk was marvelous, at times supported by gorgeous unison strings, to which he reciprocated, as when accompanying Geraldine Walther at the outset of the Adagio.