In the first of two concerts this season by Cal Performances favorites the Takács Quartet, the singular ensemble offers a program of compelling, finely wrought music by Haydn, Beethoven, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
The six Op. 20 string quartets by Haydn are considered a milestone in the history of composition; in these complex and emotive works the quartet itself began to blossom as a singular expressive art form. Coleridge-Taylor’s Five Fantasiestücke are inventive, bold character pieces composed near the turn of the 19th century, when the composer was just a teenager—well before he would achieve renown with his large-scale orchestral and choral works. By contrast, Beethoven was at the end of his life when he wrote the A minor quartet, best known for its achingly beautiful—and technically demanding—slow third movement, the “Holy Song of Thanksgiving.” The Takács’ recording of the late Beethoven quartets more than a dozen years ago became an instant classic: “an exceptional achievement…every detail…is utterly organic and the ensemble at times almost subliminally precise” (The Guardian).