By Brandon Zang
As the opening act for the 75th season of UChicago Presents, Takács Quartet delivered a breathtaking performance on the evening of October 12.
Takács Quartet, a Hungarian string ensemble based in Boulder, Colorado, began their program with Haydn’s “String Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No.4.” The rendition remained faithful to Haydn’s constant dolce markings throughout the piece, and the quartet executed emotion through intense dynamic contrast within the themes. Unfortunately, the acoustic nature of Mandel Hall worked against the performers’ intended effect, and many of the softer, more tender parts of the piece—especially those of the first movement—were muffled by the spacious venue. The players, however, did their best to highlight the composition’s contrasting expressive elements through brisk crescendos and diminuendos. Especially impressive was the third movement in which the quartet closed the piece with a fantastic finale in true Haydn fashion: powerful bursts of sound followed by equally poignant silences.
The best performance of the night was undoubtedly the quartet’s second piece, Shostakovich’s “No. 4 in D Major, Op. 83.” Distinctive for its unnerving dissonance, the piece was kept private by the composer in 1949 for fear of Soviet censorship due to its bleak and unconventional nature. The quartet’s interpretation was refreshingly melancholic, as first violinist Edward Dusinberre dug into the minor chords and changed meters with sorrowful sentiment. The rest of the quartet followed suit, all matching with succinct and definitive fervor during climaxes and with melancholy during more mellow moments. The performance lucidly exhumed the turbulent historical context of the piece as well as the composer’s own internal frustration and conflict.