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Classical

Triumph with strings

Hungary's Takács Quartet brings its transcendent reading of Bartók to Ann Arbor.

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Published 3/17/1999

Back in 1975, the members of the Takács Quartet were students at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy and banded together under the leadership of Gabor Takács-Nagy to form what would soon become one of the top performing string quartets in the world. With the intense violin artistry of Takács-Nagy leading the way, the group recorded some well-received staples of the repertoire, including pieces by Haydn, Schubert and Bartók. By 1992, however, the leader was suffering from a hand-muscle ailment and the effects of a nervous breakdown. It became apparent that the group could not continue functioning as a whole when its first violinist was no longer able to perform at the level of skill an internationally touring group needs. That the person under fire was the man who had provided the impetus for the group even coming together in the first place made the choice to sever professional relations with him even tougher.

Edward Dusinberre, a young British violinist, took over the first violin chair in 1993 and was just starting to fit in with the others when violist Gabor Ormai learned, in 1994, that he had an incurable cancer. With Ormai’s approval, the quartet then drafted Roger Tapping, formerly with the Allegri Quartet, to take his place. Dusinberre had, in the meanwhile, taken an active role in directing the group with the blessing of the two remaining original members, violinist Károly Schranz and cellist András Fejér.

This new version of the Takács Quartet has settled in quite nicely and its recent recordings are audible proof of that. 1998 saw it win Stereo Review’s nod for Record of the Year with a disc of Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15. And its latest release of all the Bartók quartets — replacing the cycle it recorded for the Hungarian state-run Hungaroton back in 1983 — won a critics award from the British magazine Gramophone and rave reviews from both sides of the Atlantic.

Things have turned out well for the former leader as well. Takács-Nagy has made a comeback, having healed physically and mentally to the point where he is now performing on the international stage again, this time as a member of the Takács Piano Trio.

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