Between tours, Takács Quartet opens fall campus series with Beethoven

CU Quartet in residence will play Grusin Hall Sept. 18–19 and October 30–31

By Peter Alexander Sept. 14 at 11:18 p.m.

It’s hard to keep up with the Takács Quartet.

Takács Quartet. Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

The CU quartet-in-residence is celebrated worldwide, giving them access to the top classical festivals. Over the past summer, they played the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, the Tanglewood Festival in Lennox, Mass., the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, at the Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh, England—a venue made prominent by composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears—and the Luberon Festival in France.

But now they are back in Boulder, and their local fans can look forward to their annual series of campus concerts, starting this weekend with an all-Beethoven program (4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 in Grusin Concert Hall). Other events during the fall semester will be concerts Oct. 30 and 31, featuring music by Britten, Bartók and Mozart; and concerts Nov. 6 and 7 by the Ivalas Quartet, who concluded a two-year residency with the Takács in May (program tba; other details and ticket information below).

Between the September and October concerts, the Takács will be touring in Japan and Korea. “We’re looking forward to that,” Takács cellist András Fejér says. “They always bring a special joy because they regard culture and classical music very highly, and they are treating us as such wonderful friends.”

Sound engineer Michael Quam at the Colorado Music Festival

Just this month the quartet released its latest recording, featuring works of Joseph Haydn. The CD, of quartets opp. 42, 77 nos. 1 and 2, and 103, was recorded in the Lone Tree, (Colo.) Arts Center. “We had probably the top American producer, Judy Sherman, and a wonderful, wonderful sound engineer, Mike Quam, whom we got to know at the Colorado Music Festival,” Fejér says.

In addition to working for the Colorado Music Festival, Quam lives and has a recording studio in Boulder. “He’s the most wonderful all-around sound man anywhere,” Fejér says. “We never met anyone like him, so we were very happy.”

In case you are wondering, in addition to the touring and recording and campus concerts, Fejér says “we always make time for (our students)! We have a wonderful new ensemble-in-residence and they are eager and hungry. That’s always a great encouragement for us, because teaching is wonderful!”

The Takács has of course played all of the Beethoven quartets, many times. In the case of the upcoming concert, the choice of an all-Beethoven program is partly from the exploration of familiar repertoire with the ensemble’s newest member, violist Richard O’Neill. “We need to re-learn the Beethoven with our new member,” Fejér says. 

“He’s full of great ideas and he’s got an encyclopedic memory. He’s a great, great all-around artist, so we are very happy to be listening to new ideas, new solutions. It’s all a new dynamic, which I am enjoying tremendously.”

The three quartets chosen for the September concerts span the major periods of Beethoven’s life: Op. 18 no. 5 from Beethoven’s very first set of six quartets published in 1801, in the sparkling key of A major; Op. 95 in the gloomier key of F minor, known as the “Serioso” Quartet, from 1810; and Op. 127 in E-flat major, from 1825.

“We love these pieces,” Fejér says. “They are wonderful pieces. Maybe the audience is not jumping on its feet because of the final effect, but it doesn’t take away from the overall greatness.”

The Quartet op. 127 provides unique challenges, Fejér explains. “Some ensembles might not program it because it’s not so spectacular. It’s so deep, and herein lies the difficulty. Its first and last movement are extremely soft, piano, pianissimo, very ethereal, up in the clouds. It takes work and rehearsing and it’s not easy to make it flow and make it light, ethereal and transparent.”

Fejér explains that the Takács usually has three main areas of work when they rehearse. First is “what we play on tour, which might be pieces we already played many times. And then there’s practicing and getting familiar with new or newish pieces, (and finally) the ones we are planning to record.”

What that means is that rehearsing the program for the October concert will mostly come a little later. About that program—Britten’s String Quartet No. 1, Bartók’s String Quartet No. 6 and Mozart’s String Quartet in D major, K499—Fejér declines to comment right now.

“I might refrain trying to be smart about Britten at this point,” he says. “We recorded (his quartets) eight or nine years ago, but we haven’t played them again. So basically now we’re relearning and discussing what’s new and what’s changed, and what we wish to be changed.

“What matters is how we feel about it today or the next week, so we can be even more convincing and find even more joy in bringing it together.”

# # # # #

Takács Quartet

  • Beethoven: String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 no. 5
    String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 
    String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building
In person and live-stream tickets HERE

Takács Quartet

  • Benjamin Britten: String Quartet No.1 
  • Bartók: String Quartet No. 6
  • Mozart: String Quartet in D major, K499

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30
7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building
In person and live-stream tickets HERE

Ivalas Quartet

  • Program TBA

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building
In person and live-stream tickets HERE

______________

NOTE: Due to spell checker error “encyclopedic” first appeared as “encyclopedia.” Corrected on 9/15.

One thought on “Between tours, Takács Quartet opens fall campus series with Beethoven

  1. Thanks for this, amigo. I am actually (don’t have a heart attack) going to get virtual tickets and listen. And, I have been studying my Beethoven Quartet scores for all three and listening to the Guarneri (usually my go-to quartet) play them……….who knew, right?? (just don’t tell anyone…..) ________________________________

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