Programs from the heart of the chamber music repertoire
By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m.
The Takacs Quartet launches their 2018–19 CU campus concert series, the first with new second violinist Harumi Rhodes, Sunday and Monday (Sept. 23–24).
Rhodes joined the quartet last spring, following the retirement of founding second violinist Károly Schranz. She has made one recording and toured with the quartet over the summer, but this will be her first year-long series as a member.
The program for the fall’s opening concerts features works by three great composers of chamber music for strings: Joseph Haydn, Schubert and Shostakovich. Two of the pieces are not well known, as they are not performed often—Haydn’s Quartet in D major, op. 20 no. 4, and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 4. In contrast, the third work on the program, Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, is one of the greatest and most beloved chamber works of the 19th century.
Cellist David Requiro, a member of the College of Music faculty, will join the members of Takacs for the Schubert’s Quintet.
The second concert of the fall semester is scheduled for Oct. 28 and 29. It will feature another piece by Haydn—the Quartet in D minor, op. 76—alongside works by Bartók and Brahms. Notably, both concerts feature composers considered to be the heart of the Classic-Romantic chamber music repertoire.
You might think that changing members in a well tuned ensemble such as the Takacs Quartet would require difficult adjustments, but Edward Dusinberre, the quartet’s first violinist, says that has not been the case. “We feel very comfortable with her,” he says of Rhodes. “We’re having a great time. She’s got chamber music and string quartets in her blood.”
He also points out that playing in a string quartet is always a process of negotiation among the ensemble members, and Rhodes fits into the environment very well. “When you’re playing chamber music, every phrase is an adjustment,” he says. “She’s got a very strong artistic voice, and that’s one of the reasons we chose her.
“Within the group there are always three or four different opinions, so that doesn’t change. It’s not like she’s coming into a situation where three of us have a standardized view of how things should be played. It’s totally not like that, so (adding Rhodes) feels like continuing the good work.”
The transition has been very positive for Rhodes, too. She was a unable to speak to me, but sent some written observations: “Everything about joining the Takacs has changed my life for the better,” she wrote. “As soon as I joined the Takacs, I assumed a new identity. Filling this role with pride and joy is what every bone in my body was made to do.”
She has played chamber music for many years, but she has found new pleasures in the Takacs. “The biggest surprise has been the luxury of performing the same piece many times. I’ve always enjoyed the process of rehearsing and performing. But the trajectory is completely different when you have a life-long relationship with this music in this way, a relationship that spans many concerts in one season. This is new to me.”
Her email to me concluded with great enthusiasm: “I look at the season ahead and can’t wait to dive in.”
Dusinberre says that whether the pieces are familiar or not, everything on the Sept. 23–24 concerts is music the quartet enjoys. “Haydn’s Op. 20 No. 4 is one of our favorite pieces,” he says. “It’s got a slow movement where the solos are very well distributed between the parts. The minuet is tremendously fun, sort of off-kilter—Haydn tricking his audience, tricking us sometimes!”
According to Dusinberre, the first movement is one of the places where quartet playing does require negotiation among the members. “It’s got a rather simple opening theme that comes back many times, in different ways. There’s different ways of bowing it, and it’s like opening a can of worms to find out what bowing we’re going to do. We’ve already had some entertaining rehearsals on that.”
The Shostakovich Fourth Quartet is actually one that the Takacs has not played before. “It’s quite fun because it’s new for all of us, and not just Harumi, and I think that’s quite nice, because it sort of levels the playing field,” he says. “It’s a wonderful piece (that has) a strong sense of folk melodies early in the piece, and then it turns into something a bit darker and more dramatic and more exciting.”
The Schubert Quintet in C major is part of larger plans by the quartet. “We’re playing (the quintet) on the road with David (Requiro), at the White Lights Festival at Lincoln Center in October,” Dusinberre says.
“He’s a wonderful player. We’re very excited to explore this piece with him.”
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CU Fall Concerts
4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24
Grusin Music Hall
Haydn: String Quartet in D Major, op. 20 no. 4
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4 in D Major, op. 83
Schubert: String Quintet in C Major, D956
With David Requiro, cello
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29
Grusin Music Hall
Haydn: String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, op. 76
Bartók: String Quartet No. 1
Brahms: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, op. 51