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Leading international quartet comes to Beaver Creek

The Takacs Quartet is a string quartet, founded in Hungary, and now based in Boulder.
Ellen Appel | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

Who: Takacs Quartet.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, located below the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village.

When: Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Cost: $45. Tickets are still available.

More information: visit www. vilarpac.org, call 970-845-8497 or visit the VPAC box office.

Extraordinary intensity. Played with a combination of discipline and wild abandon. It makes you listen with every fiber. Immaculately instinctive. Bewilderingly varied. Expressively potent.

When critics review the Takacs Quartet, it does not sound like they are reviewing a quartet. But then, Takacs is no ordinary quartet.

Formed in 1975 in the original members’ native Hungary, the ensemble had humble beginnings, with four students working to feed themselves and beginning to pick up awards along the way. The foursome gained recognition in France, England and eventually made their way to the U.S. in 1986.



The story gets interesting from here, as their decision to leave Hungary was the beginning of a successful and established career here in Colorado. A patronist at the University of Colorado at Boulder was looking to start a quartet in residence and a call was placed to ensemble member Karoly Schranz for recommendations. Schranz replied with “Yes, us!” and so Colorado became home to a leading global quartet.

Geraldine Walther, the group’s violist, was well into a 29-year run as principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony when she auditioned to replace one of the group’s members and officially joined the Takacs Quartet in 2005 as its first and only female.



When asked about being the first and only, Walthers replied, “I think it’s a good thing for every group to have a woman. Though I don’t think the guys cared if I was a kangaroo — it was about finding the best player. I auditioned, and they chose me. I feel loved and appreciated within this group and lucky to be a part of it. We’re all great friends.”

Fast-forwarding to what is now Walthers’ ninth season, this year she said the group is focusing on Bartok cycles — three in each concert to be performed in 8 or 10 cities.

“We specialize in Bartok, partly because he was Hungarian and we like sticking to our roots,” she said. “Bartok was known for venturing out into his country and taking inspiration from what he interpreted to be the folk music of Hungary and of that time. His music was not written up in some ivory tower, but from tapping into his origins.”



‘Innovative and imaginative’

The Takacs performance at the Vilar Center on Tuesday evening will feature more than just Bartók, however.

Mozart’s String Quartet in E major, K. 428 and Hayden No. 3 will open the evening. The Quartet in E major is one that Walthers especially loves, she said, because it was dedicated to Hayden. Hayden, older than Mozart, was a father figure and mentor to Mozart and wrote 88 string quartets in his lifetime, to Mozart’s 23. Mozart wrote six string quartets in homage to Hayden and this is one of those.

“This piece is beautiful, very daring, innovative and imaginative. It’s full of melodies and represents the pinnacle of Mozart’s writing,” Walthers said.

Bartok’s String Quartet no 1, op. 7 will come next on Tuesday. As this was his first quartet, he was writing in a more romantic style. Bartok’s quartets are spaced throughout his lifetime, and this one was written when he was quite young — full of imagination, inventiveness and writing in a style that is very different from anything else he wrote.

Finally, another Hungarian will be represented in the evening’s repertoire — Dvorak — with his String Quartet no. 12 in F Major, op. 96, “American.” Right after his New World Symphony, Dvorak came to America and wrote this piece while spending a summer in Iowa.

“This piece is also full of melodies, inspired by what Dvorak felt was American folk music in 1893. This is one of the most famous pieces in chamber music, one of those that everyone loves and knows,” Walthers said.

When asked how these varying pieces fit together in one evening, Walthers explained simply that they fit because they are different. Covering music from the early 18th Century to the 20th, it’s all music that comes from Europe, and all music that members of Takacs Quarter feel in their roots.

“Bartok and Dvorak are Hungarian, but Mozart belongs to everyone,” Walthers said. “This music is audience friendly. It’s just meant for everyone to enjoy. You don’t have to have read anything about classical music to enjoy this.”

The repertoire certainly has its appeal, but based on reviews of the ensemble, it is their delivery of this music that is worth coming to see. When asked about the intensity and energy with which the Takacs Quartet presents itself, Walthers explained that they try to make it come alive for themselves as well as the audience. Every audience is different, and so the ensemble relates to each audience differently and produces a different performance each time.

‘It gives meaning to people’s lives’

In a word, Walthers describes the Takacs formula: “spontaneous.”

That spontaneity has led the group to pursue some unorthodox projects within the world of classical music, to include a Hungarian folk festival, a poetry program, and a partnership with actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (just to name a few).

When asked about these pursuits, Walthers lit up, and teased that similar collaborations are already underway and will be announced soon.

It could be easily assumed that these projects represent the Takacs Quartet’s solution to today’s challenge of reinventing the wheel and keeping classical music relevant with the coming generations. Walthers’ response?

“Classical music is doing just fine! People love this music because there’s something really special about it and it gives meaning to people’s lives,” she said. “And thank God! We need art to make meaning of life. The Takacs Quartet is experimenting with new projects because we love to keep it fresh, engaging and exciting, and mix the old in with the new. But ultimately, we’re in the business of making art.”

Kate Peters works in the marketing and public relations department at the Vail Valley Foundations. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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