Artists · Ensembles · Takács Quartet
Photo Amanda Tipton
The Takács Quartet, now entering its forty-third season, is renowned for the vitality of its interpretations. The New York Times recently lauded the ensemble for “revealing the familiar as unfamiliar, making the most traditional of works feel radical once more”, and the Financial Times described a recent concert at the Wigmore Hall: “Even in the most fiendish repertoire these players show no fear, injecting the music with a heady sense of freedom. At the same time, though, there is an uncompromising attention to detail: neither a note nor a bow-hair is out of place.” Based in Boulder at the University of Colorado, the Takács Quartet performs eighty concerts a year worldwide.
In Europe during the 2017-2018 season, in addition to their four annual appearances as Associate Artists at London's Wigmore Hall, the ensemble returns to Copenhagen, Vienna, Luxembourg, Rotterdam, the Rheingau Festival and the Edinburgh Festival. They perform twice at Carnegie Hall, presenting a new Carl Vine work commissioned for them by Musica Viva Australia, Carnegie Hall and the Seattle Commissioning Club. In 2017, the ensemble joined the summer faculty at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. They return to New Zealand and Australia, perform at Tanglewood with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, at the Aspen Festival, and in over forty other concerts in prestigious North American venues. They will also tour with pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin. The latest Takács recording, to be released by Hyperion in September 2017, features Dvorák's viola quintet, Opus 97 (with Lawrence Power) and String Quartet, Opus 105.
Last season, the Takacs presented complete 6-concert Beethoven quartet cycles in London’s Wigmore Hall, at Princeton, the University of Michigan, and at UC Berkeley. Complementing these cycles, Edward Dusinberre’s book, Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet, was published in the UK by Faber and Faber and in North America by the University of Chicago Press. The book takes the reader inside the life of a string quartet, melding music history and memoir as it explores the circumstances surrounding the composition of Beethoven’s quartets.
They became the first string quartet to win the Wigmore Hall Medal in May, 2014. The Medal, inaugurated in 2007, recognizes major international artists who have a strong association with the Hall. Recipients so far include Andras Schiff, Thomas Quasthoff, Menachem Pressler and Dame Felicity Lott. In 2012, Gramophone announced that the Takács was the only string quartet to be inducted into its first Hall of Fame, along with such legendary artists as Jascha Heifetz, Leonard Bernstein and Dame Janet Baker. The ensemble also won the 2011 Award for Chamber Music and Song presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London.
The Takács Quartet performed Philip Roth’s Everyman program with Meryl Streep at Princeton in 2014, and again with her at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in 2015. The program was conceived in close collaboration with Philip Roth. The Quartet is known for such innovative programming. They first performed Everyman at Carnegie Hall in 2007 with Philip Seymour Hoffman. They have toured 14 cities with the poet Robert Pinsky, collaborate regularly with the Hungarian Folk group Muzsikas, and in 2010 they collaborated with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and David Lawrence Morse on a drama project that explored the composition of Beethoven’s last quartets.
The Takács records for Hyperion Records, and their releases for that label include string quartets by Haydn, Schubert, Janáček, Smetana, Debussy and Britten, as well as piano quintets by César Franck and Shostakovich (with Marc-André Hamelin), and viola quintets by Brahms (with Lawrence Power). Future releases for Hyperion include the Dvořák disc with Lawrence Power, the Dohnanyi Piano Quintets with Marc-André Hamelin, and piano quintets by Elgar and Amy Beach with Garrick Ohlsson. For their CDs on the Decca/London label, the Quartet has won three Gramophone Awards, a Grammy Award, three Japanese Record Academy Awards, Disc of the Year at the inaugural BBC Music Magazine Awards, and Ensemble Album of the Year at the Classical Brits.
Full details of all recordings can be found in the Recordings section of the Quartet's website.
The members of the Takács Quartet are Christoffersen Faculty Fellows at the University of Colorado Boulder and play on instruments generously loaned to them by a family Foundation. The Quartet has helped to develop a string program with a special emphasis on chamber music, where students work in a nurturing environment designed to help them develop their artistry. The Takács is a Visiting Quartet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London.
The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest by Gabor Takács-Nagy, Károly Schranz, Gabor Ormai and András Fejér, while all four were students. It first received international attention in 1977, winning First Prize and the Critics’ Prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. The Quartet also won the Gold Medal at the 1978 Portsmouth and Bordeaux Competitions and First Prizes at the Budapest International String Quartet Competition in 1978 and the Bratislava Competition in 1981. The Quartet made its North American debut tour in 1982. Violinist Edward Dusinberre joined the Quartet in 1993 and violist Roger Tapping in 1995. Violist Geraldine Walther replaced Mr. Tapping in 2005. Károly Schranz announced his retirement from the Takács Quartet as of April 30th, 2018, and he will be replaced by violinist Harumi Rhodes. In 2001 the Takács Quartet was awarded the Order of Merit of the Knight’s Cross of the Republic of Hungary, and in March of 2011 each member of the Quartet was awarded the Order of Merit Commander’s Cross by the President of the Republic of Hungary.
The Takács Quartet appears by arrangement with Christa Phelps Artist Management in London and is represented in France by Satirino.
Photo Amanda Tipton
“When critics praise a first-rank string quartet, convention demands they claim that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. True enough, maybe, but with the Takács Quartet, each separate element really does blaze with a soloistic, virtuosic flame. From the first bars of last night’s opener at the Wigmore Hall… the sheer class and distinctive voice of each instrumental contribution grabbed the ear… Yet their tight-knit togetherness is a thing of beauty in itself. Throughout the Wigmore Hall concert they interwove complex musical materials with a mutual attentiveness that spoke at every turn of world-beating teamwork.”
theartsdesk.com, Boyd Tonkin, 16th May 2019
“The Takács Quartet are chamber music royalty”
Simon Thompson, Bachtrack, Edinburgh Festival 2018
"With the Takács Quartet on their current form, when only superlatives seem to do, there is a risk of indulging in hyperbole. But the fact is : they are peerless...The combination of glowing tone-colours and impeccable technical control is in itself captivating, but it is the compelling immediacy of the Takács's playing that engages one in every moment." – The Guardian, London, 12 November 2007
"The most impressive playing came in the performance of Janacek's Second Quartet (Intimate Letters), a late work by the composer with a searing intensity and emotion throughout the four movements. In the hands of lesser groups, Janacek's ideas might seem fragmented and unrelated, but under the fingers of the Takács Quartet, everything was clear, convincing, the utterly logical - a performance of stunning power and persuasiveness."– Calgary Herald, 2 October 2007
"Anyone who has heard the Takács recordings of the late Beethoven quartets issued last year would have expected the overwhelming technical assurance and concentration with which Op 132 was projected here, but not perhaps the fluency of the performance, in which every section and detail were perfectly dovetailed so that the arching structure,with the great hymn of thanksgiving as its sublime centrepiece, was all of a single, seamless piece. The performances of Bartok's Sixth Quartet and Mozart's D minor K421 beforehand were equally remarkable .. the Mozart was a joyous demonstration of chamber-music playing at its best, with each member of the group involved in the musical decision-making, and listening intently to everything that their outstanding colleagues had to say." – The Guardian, London, 11 November 2006
"There is something about live performances by great string quartets that fixes them in the memory more than any other kind of musical experience. Hearing the Amadeus Quartet playing Schubert in the 1970s or the Borodin Quartet in Shostakovich a decade later was unforgettable, and there can be no higher praise for the way the current Takács Quartet plays Beethoven - or Mozart or Bartok for that matter - than to say that its performances rank alongside those of such great groups." – The Guardian, London, 11 November 2006
"Wonderfully musicianly and poetic performances of two great works mark this fine Quartet's debut on this label. The playing of the string quartet No 14 in D minor, Death and the Maiden, is thrillingly varied in tone colour and in the dramatic tensions that play such a large part in the construction of each movement." – Sunday Telegraph, London, 22 October 2006
"The quartets are compelling, original works, the poignant, dreamlike A minor no less than the demonic D minor. Both receive performances that do radiant justice to their genius. That of the D minor is prodigious. I have never heard the panic-stricken finale - music whose audacities still take the breath away - played more ferociously. The Takács also find memorably hushed sounds for the twilight world that much of both works inhabits." – Sunday Times, London, 1 October 2006
"With their Decca Beethoven cycle, the Takács Quartet set a modern-day benchmark. Now, with a new record company and a replacement viola-player, things look set for them to do the same for Schubert's two most popular string quartets... The Takács have the ability to make you believe that there's no other possible way the music should go, and the strength to overturn preconceptions that comes only with the greatest performers... They also have a way of revealing detail that you'd never previously noticed..." – Gramophone, London, October 2006
"It's a considerable coup for Hyperion to sign up the Takács Quartet. They are currently the greatest string quartet in the world, and their recordings of the Bartok and the Beethobven quartets for Decca remain the finest to have appeared on disc for many years. The first product of the group's new partnership is equally outstanding. Whether this is the beginning of a larger Schubert project, or just a one-off recording of the two best-known Schubert quartets, isn't clear. Let's hope it's the former, for in both works the players show an understanding of this very personal, expressive world that is natural and assured... This disc is a model for what chamber music should be about." – The Guardian, London, 29 September 2006
"The sharpness and subtlety of this Death and the Maiden takes it to the top of available versions... With this superb disc the collaboration (with Hyperion) couldn't have got off to a better start." – Daily Telegraph , London, 29 September 2006
"From the very start the Takács Quartet built up a sound picture of the greatest intensity that was balanced and directly focused .. The profusion of colours, impulses and dynamic nuances was absolutely compelling .. Words such as "exciting" or "thrilling" can only be a poor substitute for the experience ..." – Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten , Germany, 16 May 2006
"The performance did masterly justice to the rich palette of colours of this five-movement work (Britten 3) - particularly astonishing was the spiritualised Passacaglia Finale..." – Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, Germany, 13-14 May 2006
"Every now and again the flames that lick at the heart of Beethoven's late quartets need to be rekindled. The Takács Quartet meet that need. They probe, ponder and play, attend to the letter but the spirit always comes first - you can hear how in the sensitivity of their phrasing, the vitality of their attack, their humility in the face of the music's abundant mystery." – Gramophone, London, December 2005
"The real delight of the Takács, and the quality that sets them apart as a quartet, is their remarkable ensemble. It's a connoisseur's blend : a vintage brew that has mellowed over the years, yet remains as fresh on the palate as though it were in its first flush." – The Times, London, 15 November 2005
"Each of the four string players of the Takács Quartet is a marvellous soloist, yet the resulting sound is an indivisible musical whole." – Kleine Zeitung, Graz, May 2005
"The journey is over. But will anyone who heard the Takács Quartet make its eloquent, electrifying way through Beethoven's complete string quartets ever forget the experience? ... The Takács ended its three-year Beethoven cycle in Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance Hall, where the audience often sat in stunned silence .. The playing approached the superhuman .. When performances so connect with mind, heart and soul, it is clear we've been witness to - and part of - artistic greatness." – Cleveland Plain Dealer, USA, 20 April 2005
"These (Beethoven) are works full of life and intellectual demands, and - last but not least - they give the artists plenty of opportunity to put their virtuosity to the test in the earthly hear and now. This at any rate is the message of this phenomenal recording by the Takács Quartet .. It is the challenging espressivo, the sense of "this is the right and only possible way" driven at maximum risk, that fascinates the listener even more than the enormous precision of ensemble, and the delicate sound world of this team of artists." – Fono Forum, Germany, March 2005
"Rousing cheers and shouts of "Bravo!" saluted the musicians of the Takács Quartet on Monday night at the conclusion of their two-concert traversal of music by Bela Bartók .. The Takács Quartet's pianissimo playing on Sunday and Monday was stunning, but when Bartók instructs the musicians to play even more quietly, the Takács produced some of the most amazing music anyone will ever hear .. one feels certain there is no finer ensemble in the world, expressively and technically." – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, USA, 2 March 2005
"Every hope and expectation aroused by the earlier issues (Beethoven) is triumphantly vindicated by the performances and recorded quality of this final volume. Each member of this outstanding team is more than equal to the challenges that Beethoven sets .. Every dynamic and stylistic challenge of the Grosse Fuge is met, from the unbuttoned ferocity of attack in the exposition of the fugue itself to the most delicate, other-worldly whisper of the Meno mosso passage. The same could be said of all the works on these three superbly rewarding CDs ... The final volume truly crowns their enterprise ; I cannot imagine a more absorbing, penetrative and beautiful set of performances." – International Record Review, London, February 2005
"No group today plays these works (Beethoven) with the probing urgency the Takács lavishes on the music ... The Takács blends warmth with remarkable cohesion, finding poetry and drama in the notes ... For sheer luminous beauty, the ensemble's playing of the prayerful slow movement of Op 135, with which Beethoven said "auf Wiedersehen" to the string quartet, is quietly breathtaking." – Cleveland Plain Dealer, USA, 13 February 2005
"Alongside these interpretations most other contemporary accounts are simply nowhere ; the Takács make the competition seem either slick and meretricious, or insecure and over-emphatic. These are performances that have quite clearly been maturing for a long time, so that every detail is placed in its natural context, the phrasing, using just a trace of a slide between some notes, is utterly organic and the ensemble at times almost subliminally precise ... There are so many things to treasure in every work, details that it is hard to imagine better done .. This is an exceptional achievement." – The Guardian, London, 7 January 2005
"That beauty was sumptuously indulged in Borodin's gorgeous string quartet no. 2 - not as mere virtuosic display, but as part of an affectionate treatment of the work's lyrical writing. What proved so involving in the Takács's performance was the way the musicians' phrasing seemed to breathe with the natural rise and fall of singing, turning a piece that can sometimes sound surfacey and overly sweet into a seemingly authentic expression of the heart ... But the truly outstanding performance of the evening was of Beethoven's late masterpiece, the C-sharp minor quartet Op 131. Again, the quality of beautifully poised singing - not to mention perfect chordal balancing - informed the opening Adagio. But this is to single out one movement in a performance of consistent insight and the most natural narrative flow. The Takács's way with Beethoven marries richness of tone, crystalline logic and a scrupulously calibrated approach to the score that's phrased to sound like urgent and spontaneous conversation." – Washington Post, USA, 18 October 2004
"The consummate artistry of the Takács Quartet is simply breathtaking. They seem to have fashioned a sound-world of their own : refined to an unimaginable purity at one end of the spectrum but, at the other, defiantly raw and earthy. It also seems as if they aspired to this immaculate sound precisely so as to honour the intentions of Beethoven in his late quartets..It is impossible to exaggerate the beauty of the tone-colours that these four musicians achieve, nor their apparently mercurial virtuosity, but it was their capacity to bring together Beethoven's seemingly irreconcilable extremes of utterance with a natural and implicit logic that gave these performances an altogether transcendent quality .. Any notion that these quartets represent Beethoven at his most enigmatic and problematic evaporated in the face of the sheer lucidity of the Takács's playing .. If late Beethoven is the Holy Grail of quartet playing, then the Takács has found it." – The Guardian, London, 19 May 2004
"Elevating performances have the power to leave a listener exhilerated and exhausted. So where is one left after two concerts by the Takács Quartet playing Beethoven string quartets ? Certainly in another world, and a privileged one.... Now for a grand statement : The Takács might play this repertoire better than any quartet of the past or present... Along with remarkable instrumental finesse and focus, the musicians anticipate each other even as they invest Beethoven's lines with suspenseful attack and nuancing.... The two programmes held myriad enthralling moments....What ultimately sets the Takács apart is its ability to define the essential character in the Beethoven quartets, in which an enormous array of emotions, moods and compositional challenges are encapsulated." – Cleveland Plain Dealer, USA, 21 April 2004
"The Takács Quartet's Beethoven cycle got off to a fine start a couple of years ago with compelling accounts of the middle-period works, but this new recording of the earlier Op 18 set is if anything even better. The playing has all the Takács's usual dazzling virtuosity, but also an expressive freedom that penetrates right to the heart of the music. Above all, these are interpretations that aren't afraid to live dangerously..." – BBC Music Magazine, London, April 2004
"..it is hard to imagine a string quartet more compelling with a musical presence so immediate and vital. Its attacks are real and sharp, sometimes hard but not brittle. The collective sound is as brilliant as one would want, sometimes at the sacrifice of warmth, but not always.When it wants, the Takács can play with lyric softness and haunting poignancy. Whatever it tackles, the Takács is engrossing." – Seattle Post-Intelligencer, USA, 1 April 2004
"The Beethoven string quartets are of course one of the central pillars of the entire classical repertory, and it's no surprise to find well over 20 versions of Op 18 listed in the current catalogue. That means of course that newcomers need to be very special if they are to establish themselves as among the best ... I must say at once that this second volume of the Takács Quartet's survey of the oeuvre is an outstanding achievement ... Everything is right - tempo, phrasing and articulation, dynamic control, above all insight into the shape, expressive and intellectual content of the music." – International Record Review, London, March 2004
"Any string ensemble worth its concert fee strives to bring fresh eyes and ears to whatever it plays, especially such cornerstones of the literature as Beethoven's string quartets. What was astonishing was the level of spontaneity and camaraderie the Takács discovered in these familiar scores ... These are four musicians who perform as if with a single breath, whether dashing through Beethoven's showiest passages or lingering over the pauses and introspective whispers of the Op 135 slow movement. They are a quartet to cherish" – Chicago Sun-Times, 25 March 2004
"There are standing ovations that are requests for more, and there are standing ovations that are pure communications of excitement, delight and appreciation. It was the latter emotions that brought the audience to its feet ...the Takács players were riveting from the word go. They play with the winning combination of spontaneity unmarred by polish and polish unmarred by spontaneity. It's the lively, in-the-moment interplay of voices that first seduces the ear ..and then there's the sound : sweet, pointed, but not averse to a bit of burr.." – Ann Arbor News, 22 March 2004
"Their performances are so far ahead of the competition that one might wonder if they aren't too brilliant, until one remembers the effect of Beethoven's own piano playing on his audiences ..." (Beethoven Op 18) – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 14 March 2004
"An earlier release devoted to the Razumovsky and Harp quartets was a powerful introduction to the series. Now the six early quartets of Op 18 are a brilliant continuation. The precision and spirit of the performances - tempos in the outer movements tend to be quick - are remarkable. All six spring to life as vital art" – Dallas Morning News, 22 February 2004
"While issues of such superlative quality as this continue to emerge, it's not Armageddon for the classical record industry yet." (Beethoven Op 18) – Sunday Times, London, 8 February 2004
"Sometimes a concert just hits the spot, refreshing the soul and the psyche. The Takács provided just such an experience. In a performance so richly textured, so beautifully balanced as to be almost unbelievable, the Takács had many holding their breath .. Among the four members there is interpretive vision, cohesion, tonal sheen and rhythmic eloquence. Their homogeneity is breathtaking" – Beverly Hills Outlook, USA, November 2003
"Marvellous - superb - extraordinary - incredible - terrific. These were just some of the adjectives that could be heard last night at the El Monte Cultural Centre from the lips of some astonished members of the audience reacting to the tremendous expressive power that these truly superb artists managed to achieve..." – Diario de Sevilla, Spain, 28 May 2003
"Johannes Brahms's String Quartet in C minor Op 51 No 1 was performed with an electrifying attack. The first and last movements were full of brio, moving impulsively forwards. In contrast, the Romance was laid out with astonishing elegance, with a graceful simplicity. Restrained, transparent and delicate in sonority, and with perfect intonation, the four musicians achieved a unified, well-balanced sound-world. The microstructural motion of the third movement was delicately moulded, constantly alternating between a muted "mezza voce" and assertive gestures of triumph. And with the greatest possible differentiation of dynamic contrast, the Finale became the most thrilling moment of this recital evening." – Stuttgarter Zeitung, Germany 15 May 2003
"Beethoven's late quartets, like Shakespeare's late romances, are rich, puzzling, kaleidoscopic works that leave much room for interpretation. But unlike ensembles that hit the metaphysical dimension so hard the music's lyricism is slighted, or those that soften Beethoven's hard edges into corporate blandness, the Takács gave us Beethoven complete. Wistful and exuberant in equal measure, the quartet's performance posed the composer's existential questions, but answered them with hope and generosity of spirit. And the playing itself was gorgeous - glowing and sweet-toned ...." – Washington Post, 1 March 2003
"Even if one were not aware of the circumstances behind the composition of Bartok's last string quartet, one would probably sense something of the emotional subtext from a performance as fine as that by the Takács Quartet last night. The Takács Quartet invoked the melancholy of this deeply affecting music with rare sympathy." – Evening Standard, London 7 May 2003
"I marvel at how the Takács balance the music's vertical and horizontal aspects, long-breathed contrapuntal lines gliding serenely above a sharp, occasionally dramatic accompaniment - masterful playing indeed and typical of this first lap of the Takács's projected Beethoven cycle... As I've already suggested, the jewel of this first Beethoven instalment from the Takács is Op 59 No 2, though I would feel sorely challenged to nominate a rival digital set of Opp. 59 & 74 that is better overall..." – Gramophone, London July 2002
"The playing is of the highest standard: exuberant, yet also alive to the softest, tenderest gradations ... There are innumerable highlights, but these deeply considered readings are marked above all by integrity of purpose and achievement." (Beethoven Opp. 59 & 74 / Decca) – International Record Review, London June 2002
"The Takács's precision and polish are often breathtaking. Yet there is nothing slick about their playing, which has a formidable sinew and intellectual energy in the fast movements, and distils an absorbed spirituality in the adagios. Among modern versions, the Takács are up there with the Alban Berg..." (Beethoven Opp. 59 & 74/Decca) – Daily Telegraph, London 18 May 2002
"Each piece was given a fine performance. We expected nothing less. The Takács have always played with daring and imagination, with sublime skill and searching intuition, and with deep empathy, whatever a work's style or approach ... constant manipulations of harmony, colour and density do more than simply embellish the tune. They take our emotions and turn them every which way. Or at least that was what happened in this remarkable performance." – Evening Standard, London 10 May 2002
"... epic Schubert (D 810), heroically scaled and superbly characterized." – Washington Post 4 March 2002
"The current season has allowed Toronto audiences to sample some top-notch string ensembles, but the crowing moment has to be the Colorado-based Takács Quartet's visit. What made the performance so special was remarkable ensemble sound, a unity that shaped two centuries of music so clearly and cleanly that one could almost reach out and caress the sound sculptures created by violinists Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, Roger Tapping on viola and András Fejér on cello." – Toronto Star 4 March 2002
Photo Amanda Tipton
Photo Amanda Tipton