A second new album this year from the much-fêted Takács Quartet presents three popular string quartets from Czechoslovakia. Janáček’s two quartets share with Smetana’s No 1 narrative undercurrents, and draw from our four players performances of gripping engagement.
Hyperion’s Record of the Month for October marks the debut on the label by the Takács Quartet. After seventeen years recording for Decca, including multi-awarding-winning cycles of quartets by Beethoven and Bartók, this thrilling ensemble is now embarking on a new relationship with Hyperion; future projects will include works by Brahms, Janácek and Schumann. Schubert’s famous String Quartet, D810, subtitled ‘Death and the Maiden’, is one of the pillars of the repertoire. This new performance is electrifying, and was recorded following a global concert series, enthusiastically welcomed in the press: ‘The Takács’ reading of the second movement was characterized by unremitting pain and mystery.
The Takács Quartet began their exclusive association with Decca in 1988 and the first release was the CD of Haydn String Quartets, op.76 nos.1-3; this was followed by the other three quartets that make up the set: op.76 nos. 4-6. This set of quartets was Haydn's last and was published in 1797 (his projected set of 6 quartets op.77 produced just two works and his op.103 remained a fragment). The second of these discs, containing nos.4-6 of op.76 was particularly warmly received by Gramophone in January 1990.
The Hungarian-British Takács Quartet is neither Czech nor American nor German, but it conveys the three national strands of these wonderful late Dvorák works as few others have ever done. Buyers interested in these pieces have a selection of top-notch recordings from which to choose, but they are urgently directed to this one.
Frank Martin's discography has expanded over the last few years. The most prominent of these new releases was the first ever complete recording of his opera Der Sturm which was issued last year by Hyperion. However, some of his most significant works have yet to make their way onto disc; one such is Pseaumes de Genève (1958). In that neglected vein we are now introduced to Le Conte de Cendrillon (Das Märchen vom Aschenbrödel).
The Takács Quartet, Hungarian but now resident in the U.S., takes string quartet playing back to its basics here, and does so transcendently (paradoxical as that may sound). You may find the playing a bit neutral at first, with Haydn's more dancelike rhythms rendered straightforwardly, but keep listening: each movement is a carefully polished jewel, with each instrument making up a set of perfectly sharp facets.
Ths collection of five of Brahms' chamber music masterpieces includes four with piano and all of these feature the supreme artistry of Andras Schiff. Both the quintets - for clarinet and piano - are included; the recording of the Clarinet Quintet with Peter Schmidl with members of the New Vienna Octet, receives its first release on CD.