BEETHOVEN: THE EARLY QUARTETS - TAKACS QUARTET
“Robert Simpson disagreed with writers who believed that Beethoven's backward glances to Haydn and Mozart in his Op 18 set were so obvious as to distract attention from his own individuality. The Takács disagree, too. They concede the tradition, but those glances are far from obvious. From the beginning this is Beethoven through and through. The opening bars of Op 18 No 1 are soft yet terse. The answering calls are conciliatory, but the suspense is palpable.
And, in a trenchant Allegro con brio, every sforzando is used to raise the tension, especially in the development. There are no concessions to surface beauty, and the message isn't subdued.
The Takács are particular about dynamics. The fortissimo chord near the finish of the slow movement is startling, and the build up from pianissimo is as impressive as the drop back to the end. The Adagio, though directed to be both impassioned and tender, tends to be fervent, while fine inflections to the line ensure that the fairly swift tempo doesn't appear hurried. Conversely, the Adagioma non troppo of No 6 is compassionately slow, but continuously mobile: these musicians don't overlay textures with fatty tissue. Despite wide separation, ensemble is always close-knit. Just how close may be appreciated in the Scherzos, which are tight and cohesive. That of No 4 has, in addition, precise give and take between the contrapuntal lines. The Takács play them in a way that leads the ear on without ignoring the expressive demands of the unusual marking Andantescherzoso quasi Allegretto.”