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Dvo?ák, Shostakovich & Brahms

Dvo?ák String Quartet in F, Op.96 (American)
Shostakovich String Quartet No.11 in F minor, Op.122
Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34

Takács Quartet Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)
Stephen Hough (piano)

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London May 18, 2007

The Takács Quartet represents string quartet playing at a high level of accomplishment and pleased their large audience with the most popular of Dvo?ák’s string quartets; the many others are likely to be encountered occasionally at Wigmore Hall, and in CD "Intégrales" - they deserve wider acquaintance. Shostakovich’s short 11th quartet made less of an impression, but it was the Brahms piano quintet which many of us may have come particularly to hear.

One of my favourites in the piano/strings repertoire, theirs was a performance of assured technical achievement, but somehow uninvolving. There was a curious lack of depth in the sound of Stephen Hough's Steinway as heard from near-front on the keybaord side; pianos usually sound better where one cannot watch the fingers...

Perhaps one inevitably looks back to the tension and strain overcome conveyed by benchmark artists of old; mine is Serkin with the Busch Quartet; follow that link to hear them.

Brahms: String Quartets Op. 51 No. 1, Op. 67

Takács Quartet

Hyperion CDA67552

I have over the years had difficulty with the Brahms quartets, finding the 1st too "orchestral", insistent and hectoring, preferring the less often heard 3rd, which here is given with delicious poise, and is sensibly placed before the other.

An ideal pairing in recorded performances which will be hard to surpass or supercede. For a detailed movement by movement analysis I am pleased to defer to Stephen Graham of Musical Criticism.

Recommended unreservedly

Peter Grahame Woolf