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The Takacs Quartet: from Budapest to New Zealand

Takacs Quartet (photo by Ellen Appel)

String quartet goes down under for a new work

On Tuesday, April 20, at 8pm, the Takács Quartet takes the stage at the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall for the penultimate concert in the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s 2009-2010 season. Their program includes Beethoven’s final “Razumovsky” quartet, the String Quartet in C major Op. 59, No. 3; the Schumann String Quartet, Op. 41, No.3, just released by the group on a Hyperion CD last November; and A Cool Wind by New Zealand composer John Psathas. The Takács Quartet will play the same program at Carnegie Hall two days before their Buffalo performance.

Formed in 1975 by four students at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, two of the original musicians, cellist András Fejér, and second violinist Károly Schranz, are still members of the group, though while Schranz is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, Lina Bahn of the Corigliano Quartet takes his place for the Buffalo concert. English native Edward Dusinberre took over the first violin duties in 1993; Floridian Geraldine Walther, who was principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony for 29 years, joined the Takács Quartet as the regular violist in the fall of 2005. The members of the Takács Quartet, currently in residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder recently received the University of Colorado’s 2010 Faculty Excellence Award.

The Takács Quartet performs a large number of concerts worldwide, including at venues in the Far East and the “Antipodes,” i.e. Australia and New Zealand. That kind of extensive touring schedule tends to expose receptive musicians, among whom the members of the Takács Quartet number, to a wide variety of influences. John Psathas is New Zealand’s most prominent composer, and his third string quartet, A Cool Wind, was commissioned for the Takács Quartet by Chamber Music New Zealand; the short, one-movement work had its first performance by the group in Auckland, in July 2008. The son of Greek émigrés, Psathas first gained international notice for the melodiously propulsive opening and closing fanfares that he composed for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Of the energetic intensity and vibrant rhythms of his music, Psathas has written, “I try to make my works as concise as possible and to achieve the most impact I can in that time. I want to grab the listener in a tight embrace and take them through the work on a compelling journey. I try to keep the listener intensely focused on the work from start to finish.” Psathas has remarked that he found the inspiration for A Cool Wind in the soft, slightly nasal sound of the duduk, a double-reed woodwind instrument popular throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Beethoven wrote his three Op. 59 quartets in 1806, on a commission from Andrey Razumovsky, the long-serving Russian ambassador to the Habsburg court in Vienna. Composed six years after Beethoven’s well-received first set of quartets, the Op. 18, the initial reception of the Op. 59 quartets was mixed. When Ignaz Schuppanzigh, first violinist in the quartet that premiered the works, complained about the many difficult parts, Beethoven was reported to have said, “Does he really supposed I think of his puling little fiddle when the spirit speaks to me and I compose something?”

This year is the bicentennial of the birth of Robert Schumann, born on June 8, 1810 in Zwickau, Germany. Schumann composed his only three string quartets as his Op. 41 in 1842. The String Quartet in A major, Op. 41, No. 3 is the most often performed, with its deeply moving adagio “an impassioned and profound movement that is shaped more by content than by any prescribed formal construct.”

Tickets are $20; $10 for students. For information, visit

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