Smile Politely

A string quartet with star quality

From their founding in Hungary in 1975, they have been one of the most respected chamber ensembles in the world, but somehow the Takacs String Quartet has never quite reached the level of celebrity. While they have a “star quality,” this has never translated respect into adoration. I encourage you to consider the evening of December 5th at Krannert Center’s Foellinger Great Hall, and you may well discover the greatness of the Takacs Quartet.

It is pronounced TAKACH, by the way, as befitting the Hungarian alignment of sounds, and for their first eight years they performed under the watchful eye of an Iron Curtain regime after their founding at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. By 1977, they had won a first prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France, and by 1981 they had accumulated four more prestigious first prizes in European chamber ensemble competitions. In 1982, they toured North America for the first time, and their career took a major turn.

There is an old Cold War joke: “What is the Moscow String Quartet?” Answer: “The Moscow Philharmonic after their North American tour.” Such was the reality oftouring Iron Curtain artists who saw the greener grass of the western democracies. In the case of the Takacs Quartet, the entire ensemble believed their future was in the United States after the 1982 tour, and they arranged a change of venue to Colorado University at Boulder in 1983. They remain to this day the faculty quartet in residence at CU, and the quartet is fiercely loyal to their original patron, unlike other university affiliated ensembles who have been lured away by bigger paychecks.

With more freedom to plan, play, and tour, recording contracts ensued and there followed a brilliant performing career that has included over 50 albums, a Grammy Award for Chamber Ensemble playing, and, in 2012, the prestigious British classical music magazine Gramophone inducted them into their Hall of Fame. Two of the original four members—Karoly Schranz and Andras Fejer—remain, while departed members have been replaced by British violinist Edward Dusinberre and American violist Geraldine Walther. Even with the Hungarian contingent down 50%, the Hungarian government has not only forgiven their defection but honored their legacy.

In 2013, the Takacs Quartet was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of the Merit of the Republic of Hungary by the Hungarian government. It is this finely tuned and greatly honored group who we will have the honor of hearing on December 5. Look forward to an evening of Beethoven, Bartok, and that ever so sublime quartet of Smetana’s, String quartet No. 1, “From My Life.” Such an evening may switch your opinion into the “star quality” category.

For further information, call the Krannert Box Office at 217-333-6280, or visit the Krannert Center website.

Related Articles