Wigmore Hall, London
The Wigmore Hall is celebrating its 110th birthday this week with a pair of gala concerts. For the exact anniversary of the first concert there, the recipe was simple: invite the greatest string quartet of the present day together with Britain's leading pianist, and ask them to play together. This was not, though, one of those ad hoc arrangements so common in concerts of this kind, when the performers meet for the first time just hours before the concert. The Takács Quartet and Stephen Hough share a CD label, and have appeared in concert and recorded together before.
That was in the Brahms piano quintet, but here they played Dvor?ák – his Op 81 Piano Quintet, with Hough leading the way in a performance that simply took the music for what it is, elegant, genial and never too profound, and then polished it until it sparkled. The first movement was driven to such a tremendous climax it provoked spontaneous applause from the usually impeccable Wigmore audience (perhaps too a by product of the celebratory food and drink on offer in the interval). And, if the second-movement dumka didn't have a great deal of rustic character, it had oodles of expressive refinements, while Hough's diamond-sharp articulation constantly lit up the furiant scherzo and the finale.
The Takács had the first half of the concert to themselves, but sounded a bit below their usual extraordinary standards. At first it seemed as if it was Haydn's D Major Quartet Op 71 No 2, not the most charismatic of his quartets, that had failed to engage them, but even Beethoven's Op 135 was not projected with quite the usual authority or vision.
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