Takács Quartet features Mendelssohn siblings in spring concert series

Retiring violist Geraldine Walther will be honored for her years with the quartet May 3–4

By Peter Alexander

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Takács Quartet

Programs featuring string quartets by sister and brother Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Jan. 12-13) and Felix Mendelssohn (May 3-4) will form the bookends of the spring concert series by the Takács Quartet at the University of Colorado.

In between (March 8-9) will be a program recognizing the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Other composers on the bill over the three programs will be Mozart, Haydn and Brahms.

The programming of quartets by the siblings Mendelssohn comes about partly from a planned recording by the Takács Quartet that will include both pieces, but it also reflects the music’s history. “The Felix Mendelssohn quartet that we’re playing was written just after Fanny died, and he dedicated it to her,” Edward Dusinberre, the quartet’s first violinist, explains. “It’s also his last quartet, and he died very soon after that.

“That’s a nice link between the two pieces, which will form the nucleus of our next recording.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Takács Quartet Spring Series 2020

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13
Mozart: String Quartet in D major, K575
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: String Quartet in E-flat major
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, K 581, with Daniel Silver, clarinet

4 p.m. Sunday, March 8 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 9
Haydn: String Quartet in C major, op. 54 No. 2
Beethoven: String Quartet in G major, op. 18 no. 2
Beethoven: String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131

4 p.m. Sunday, May 3 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 4
Beethoven String Quartet in B-flat major, op. 18 no 6
Felix Mendelssohn, String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, op. 80
Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G major, op. 111, with Erika Eckert, viola

All performances in Grusin Hall of the Imig Music Building on the CU campus. For ticket availability, call 303-492-8008.

Takacs Quartet announces change of violist

Geraldine Walther to retire in 2020, after 15 years with quartet

By Peter Alexander Oct. 10 at 4:55 pm.

The Takacs Quartet, in residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has announced that retirement from the group of violist Geraldine Walther. She will be replaced by violist Richard O’Neill starting in June 2020.

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New Takacs membership, starting in 2020: From left, Richard O’Neill, viola; András Fejér, cello; Harumi Rhodes, second violin; Ed Dusinberre, first violin.

The other current members of  the quartet are first violinist Edward Dusinberre, who joined in 1993; second violinist Harumi Rhodes, who joined in 2018; and cellist András Fejér, the sole remaining original member of the group.

The original Takács Quartet was formed by four students at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, following a pickup soccer game. That quartet, comprising Gábor Takács Nagy, Karoly Schranz, Gábor Ormai and Fejér, first came to Boulder in 1986 as artists-in-residence at the CU College of Music. In addition to maintaining a high profile international career, the quartet presents an annual concert series on the CU campus that sells out two performances of each program, and frequently collaborate with their faculty colleagues.

Walther was quoted in a statement released by the Takacs Quartet: “I have loved being a member of the Takács Quartet and am grateful for all the friends I’ve made along the way. I am very happy to hand the baton over to the wonderful violist and musician, Richard O’Neill, and wish the group every success for their future together!”

O’Neill wrote, “Joining the Takács Quartet is the greatest honor of my life. I am thrilled to follow in the footsteps of one of my heroes, the great Geraldine Walther, whom I have listened to and adored since I was a child.”

CU College of Music Dean John Davis wrote: “Walther, whose exceptional artistry has contributed to the long-standing success and reputation of the Takács Quartet, will be sorely missed by the many people who have been impacted by her music, friendship, teaching and warm spirit. She has been a treasured part of the College of Music family, and her immense contributions here will be felt for many years to come.

“The addition of Richard (O’Neill) to the quartet is to be celebrated. Richard is a musician of the highest caliber and we are beyond thrilled that he will become the newest member of the Takács Quartet and contribute to the ongoing stellar level of the group. We welcome him to the College of Music!”

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Gerladine Walther. CU Photo.

Walther joined the Takacs Quartet from the San Francisco Symphony, where she was principal violist for 29 years. Early in her career she won the William Primrose International Competition. In addition to CU, she taught at the San Francisco Conservatory, Mills College in Oakland and Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Cal.

She also has appeared a chamber music festivals from Marlboro, Vt., to Santa Fe N.M., and frequently performed as a solo artist. Her chamber music performances include collaborations with Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zuckerman, and the Guarneri, Tokyo and St. Lawrence quartets.

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Richard O’Neill

Korean-American violist O’Neill has been artistic director of Ensemble DITTO, founded in 2007 to introduce chamber music to a wider and younger audience in South Korea and Asia, throughout its 13-year existence. He is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and principal violist of Camerata Pacifica in Santa Barbara, Cal.

Walther will perform with the quartet for the remainder of the their campus concerts of the 2019-20 academic year. Her last performance with the group will be at the Prague Spring Festival on May 22, 2020. O’Neill will then succeed her starting with a performance at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where he is currently on the faculty.

Boulder Phil in fine form for Mozart, Beethoven and Adés

Dusinberre and Walther delightful in Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic was in fine form last night (Nov. 6), as they presented two exquisite soloists as part of a season of duo-solo performances.

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Edward Dusinberre and Geraldine Walther

Violinist Edward Dusinberre and violist Geraldine Walther, members of the Takacs Quartet, played Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola with the orchestra. Conductor Michael Butterman also led the Phil in a fascinating work by British composer Thomas Adés and a bracing performance of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony.

But first things first: Mozart. The interplay of the two soloists is central to the Sinfonia Concertante, and it is here that Dusinberre and Walther elevated their performance to the highest level. They are of course great individual players, but as members of a world-class string quartet, chamber music partners who play together professionally virtually every day, they have honed the ability to respond to one another in tone, mood, phrasing and pitch—all the myriad details that make a great performance.

Of all the delights they offered, I will single out one: There is a joint cadenza in the first movement, with the parts written out for the players. Walther and Dusinberre were so perfectly aligned in pitch and rhythm and the freedom of their phrasing that it sounded like one person on two instruments. I have never heard that passage better.

Their experienced partnership made the performance a pleasure to watch as well as hear. You could see the communication between them, as they shared their enjoyment of Mozart’s playful interchanges between soloists in the outer movements, and the beautiful sharing of extended melodies of the slow movement. And through their interactions, they shared that enjoyment with the audience.

It has to be said that Macky is not a great venue for this work There is a reason that Butterman has programmed more Romantic works than Mozart, in order to achieve what he calls “a sonic size appropriate for Macky Auditorium.” At times the Mozart sounded distant—and if it sounds that way from Row M, what must it sound like from the back or the mezzanine?

The concert began with Adés’s Three Studies from Couperin, orchestrations of harpsichord works by the French Baroque composer François Couperin. Himself a keyboard player, Adés has said that the best day he could imagine would be playing Couperin all day. I expect few in the audience have that degree of enthusiasm for the composer, but last night’s performance may well have boosted the appreciation for his strongly characterized and characteristic works.

Like the originals, Adés’s orchestrations are highly individual, offering a wondrous mix of colors. These are watercolors to the bright paintings of some orchestra arrangements—subtle and subdued hues that were given a well blended and warm interpretation by Butterman and the orchestra.

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Michael Butterman. Photo by Glenn Ross

Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony was the first orchestral score I ever owned, so the rare performances are always both musical and nostalgic treasures for me. I admit I am prejudiced in favor of anyone who programs the Eighth, but I was definitely not disappointed by last night’s performance. Even though the Eighth is scored for a smaller classical orchestra, without trombones or doubled winds, the Phil’s sound was full enough to create a real presence in the hall.

Butterman’s interpretation was highly energetic, a bit on the muscular side, but none the less enjoyable for that. He found a good balance between Beethovenian outbursts, aided and abetted by a vigorous timpanist, and the more lyrical and light-hearted moments of the symphony. The second movement, marked Allegretto scherzando, was very brisk, more scherzando than allegretto. A slightly slower pace would allow the listener to enjoy Beethoven’s good cheer a bit more in this cheeky, clucking stand-in for a slow movement.

The finale was, as it should be, even faster, but here the tempo worked entirely to Beethoven’s advantage. The Boulder Philharmonic stayed right with Butterman’s galloping pace right to the end. Beethoven’s Eighth is perhaps too light hearted to elicit cheers, but the performance was more than worthy of a hearty “Bravo!”