Sunday, August 25, 2019

[50] Mostly Mozart presents Takács Quartet at Alice Tully Hall | #1Summer50Concerts

Me, finishing something I started for the first time, like, ever

WHO: Takács Quartet; Jeremy Denk, piano
WHAT: MOZART String Quartet No. 21 in D major, K. 575 "Prussian"; BEETHOVEN String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135; DOHNÁNYI Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1
WHERE: Alice Tully Hall
WHEN: August 5, 2019 at 7:30pm

I'm going to spare you the gritty details, but let me just say this -- I was a little bit emotional at this final concert. And it wasn't just because of the heart-rending slow movements from the Beethoven and the Dohnányi.

As the lights dimmed, and the robo-voice over the loudspeaker told the audience to silence their cell phones, I couldn't help but notice that the sad cavern in my stomach trumped the endorphin rush of triumph.

So much for sparing you the gritty details.

I posted about concert #50 on my Snapchat and got plenty of congratulations, but as I pointed out to all of my loyal followers, it's not over until it's over. Review #50 hasn't hit the web yet. Well, here it is.

I started this project with the most niche concert I could find. Well, it appears I've sold out -- here's a review of, like, one of the most famous quartets in the world.

I went into this concert with a more or less neutral idea of Takács. I listened to one of their Beethoven quartet recordings a while ago. I may have listened to a couple movements of the Bartók cycle at some point. But that's about it.

Takács is not a quartet where you have to call into question whether they play musically, or how well they play well as a quartet. They're obviously very good. The only thing I can do is to ask myself whether they approach the program the way I would. And the answer to that is...kind of?

Takács's approach to Mozart is distinctly different from mine. I love to relish in Mozart's simplicity, striking a balance between imparting my own musical ideas and letting the bright levity of the score speak for itself. Takács erred definitively on the side of the former, and to my ear it seemed a little bit overworked. It didn't help, of course, that their interpretation seemed overly romantic -- their wide, fast vibrato was always audible, which is *probably* not how Mozart would have wanted it. Oh, and it felt like cellist András Fejér was celebrating the upcoming Bartók anniversary a few months early with his short, hatchet-y accompanying strokes. Again, these are all personal objections. Objectively, they played very very well.

Their Beethoven was a little more to my liking -- their approach wasn't so different from that for the Mozart, but it felt a bit more appropriate for the parodistic aspects of Op. 135. Plus, as I said before, that slow movement was to die for (or, in my case, to cry for). And their romantic approach to the Dohnányi was perfectly idiomatic, strengthened by Jeremy Denk's insistently emotional, yet transparent playing.

My mind wasn't blown, but I still left pleased. Takács is eminently reliable. And besides which, I wasn't *really* thinking about the music. I was crying on the inside as the lovely critic sitting next to me (whose name I didn't catch -- he had to run for a train) was waxing poetic about Pekka Kuusisto's abomination of a Four Seasons mashup with Scandinavian folk music.

And now I'm crying on the outside. Stay tuned for the summer wrap-up posts, hopefully coming before my classes start on Wednesday!

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