stars - Ensemble Music Series; Indiana History Center; April 21. When we attend
an Ensemble Music sponsored chamber concert and hear it framed by two Beethoven
string quartets, we know we've arrived home; we think this is what chamber
music is all about. And the much heralded Takács String Quartet was there to
deliver it on the final Wednesday of the Ensemble series' current season. For
this concert, Lina Bahn of the Corigliano Quartet stood in for injured Károly
Schranz as the 2nd violinist. The Takács opened
with Beethoven's Op. 18 No. 6 in B-flat, the final offering in the composer's
first foray into string quartet writing. Definitely a "first-period"
composition — of the three composing periods/styles usually assigned to
him — the quartet is lively, rhythmically interesting and somewhat vapid
harmonically. Its final movement opens with a solemn adagio, "La Malinconia,"
interspersed with a zippy allegro—a new approach to quartet writing not
attempted by Beethoven's great predecessors, Haydn and Mozart. A recent quartet
by New Zealander John Psathas, entitled A Cool Wind, came next. "A plea for
a balm, a cool wind to ease anguish and torment" says the composer about this
work. This is an agreeable, single-movement, tonally oriented piece with
complex rhythms, one section evolving into the next, with an almost continuous
rocking figure over short intervals — and does indeed evoke anguish. As
with most new works of any stripe, it's nary impossible to predict its future.
We then returned to Beethoven, this time with a striking, authoritative
"middle" quartet, his Op. 59 No. 3 in C, the third of three quartets he
dedicated to Count Razumovsky. Though much richer harmonically than Op. 18 No.
6, Beethoven looks back in many ways to Mozart's "Dissonant" Quartet in the
same key, even reverting the third movement to a minuet rather than his usual
scherzo. The rapid-note, quadruple-meter, fugal Finale is the big attention
getter, and the Takács players lived up to this movement's expectation,
bringing — as it were — down the house. They grabbed hold of those
racing figures, making them their own. In fact, throughout the concert the
Takács String Quartet lived up to their highly vaunted reputation, ending this
Ensemble season with a splash.