Tuesday, 9 February 2016

First violinist, Edward Dusinberre provides a wonderful and revealing account of the life of the Takács Quartet combined with insights into Beethoven and his quartets in his book Beethoven For a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet published by Faber and Faber

Edward Dusinberre www.takacsquartet.com/press_dusinberre.html first violin of the Takács Quartet, was born in 1968 in Leamington Spa, England. He studied with the Ukrainian violinist Felix Andrievsky at the Royal College of Music in London and at the Juilliard School with Dorothy DeLay and Piotr Milewski. In 1990 he won the British Violin Recital Prize and gave his debut recital in London at the Purcell Room, South Bank Centre. Upon completion of his studies at Juilliard, Dusinberre auditioned for the Takács Quartet, which he joined in 1993.

His book, Beethoven For a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet, was published by Faber and Faber www.faber.co.uk/shop/music/classical-music.html in January 2016 and will be published by the University of Chicago Press in May 2016.

ISBN 9780571317134
Published 21/01/2016
272 pages
The title of Dusinberre’s book is taken from Beethoven’s comment of his Opus 59 quartets 'They are not for you but for a later age!' Originally the idea of Edward Dusinberre’s agent, this volume takes the reader inside the life of a string quartet, melding music history and memoir as it explores the circumstances surrounding the composition of Beethoven's quartets and the Takács Quartet's experiences rehearsing and performing this music.

Each chapter relates to a stage in Dusinberre’s life with the Takács Quartet as well as to a Beethoven quartet, bringing some fascinating insights. The list of members of the Takács from their inception in 1975 until the present time indicates that despite a number of changes to the their line-up, they have maintained a continuity with founder members, second violinist, Károly Schranz and cellist András Fejér remaining to this day.

Prologue: Opus 131 is a fascinating and detailed account of what it is like to be on the platform of the Wigmore Hall, London to play Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131, from the anticipation of the concert through the opening bars taken by Dusinberre, the interaction between players, the decisions in rehearsal as well as some detailed description of Beethoven’s Op.131 from a performer’s perspective, all encompassed within the scope of this account of a performance.

1 Audition: Opus 59 No.3 reveals Dusinberre’s light and humorous side when he goes back in time to talk of his visit at the age of 23 years and fresh out of the Julliard School, to Boulder, Colorado to audition with the Takács Quartet (where they are undertaking a residency at the University). Talk of his practice for his audition reveals further information about Beethoven whilst mentioning the Takács move from Budapest to Boulder and their families’ difficulties adjusting to a new country. He reveals how the Quartet manage difficulties in finding agreement on performance issues with much detailed description of working with the Takács towards a second audition performance. Finally there is the phone call from the Quartet inviting Dusinberre to join them as a member.

2 Joining the Quartet: Opus 18 No.1 it is the same detailed description of working with the Takács on Beethoven and extended information about the composer that reveals so much. Whilst he talks about the quartet and their families on a personal level he intersperses with more about Beethoven and his personal life as well as his own first concerts with the Takács Quartet and foreign tours.

3 Fracture: Opus 59 No.2 opens with a glorious mishap that occurred whilst the Quartet were reaching the end of Beethoven’s quartet Opus 59 No.2 before moving on to Beethoven life when he wrote the Opus 59 No.2 quartet. He reveals the Takács selection of instruments, in particular a ‘new’ instrument for himself, as well as more about how the Quartet develops a performance. Finally there is the terrible news of violist Gabor Ormai’s terminal cancer, so sensitively written.

4 Re-creation: Opus 127 covers the fascinating aspect of the Takács recording their Beethoven quartet cycle. New violist, Roger Tapping joins and there is much about their changing interpretation of Op.127, about Beethoven and Op.127 and the late quartets, interspersed by the recording of Op.127 and all the inherent problems. Interestingly, Dusinberre talks of the stress of listening to their CD that appears a year later, together with Roger’s announcement that he will be leaving the quartet.

5 Convalescence: Opus 132 brings more health concerns when founding cellist András Fejér is found to have a blocked artery. Happily he is still with the Quartet today but the members, on lawyers’ advice, take out life insurance policies on each other – just in case.  Geraldine Walther joins as violist and it is revealed that  ‘after ten years of working together we find ourselves continuing to examine basic questions of character and pacing , a debate perhaps more easily inspired by a new player, but also essential amongst four players who may become too accustomed to working together.’ There are tiring tours, more about Beethoven and Opus 132, arguments over their interpretation of Op.132 and humour that overcomes the stress.  Dusinberre talks humorously of the occasion they had a heckler as well as arriving at interpretative solutions.  A 2014 concert at Harris Hall just north-west of Aspen, Colorado brings back memories for Dusinberre of his own time at Aspen twenty-four years previously and even a little history of Aspen.

Finally in 6 Alternative Endings: Opus 130 Edward Dusinberre ruminates at length on the difficulties of the Grosse Fuge and the history of Op.130. He covers problems at the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society concert when playing Beethoven’s new ending to Op.130 rather than Grosse Fuge, performance discussions and decisions for further concerts including Wigmore Hall, concluding with how he often recalls the early days of the Takács Quartet saying ‘I imagine them on a small field at the side of the Autobahn – four Hungarian men in their early twenties, revelling in the chance to stretch their legs after many hours’ driving…’ 

This is a wonderful and revealing account of the life of a great Quartet combined with insights into Beethoven and his quartets.  What shines through above all is the commitment and continued striving by the individual members of the Takács Quartet to bring interpretations of the highest order. 

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