Harriet Smith
Sinfini Music
September 2015

The Takács never take a work into the studio without having something meaningful to say, and that's the case with repertoire from Beethoven and Schubert to the two great Czech masters here. In Janácek's 'Kreutzer Sonata' Quartet, based on a novella by Tolstoy, they convey with panache the contrast between barely contained violence and aching lyrical writing (the tremolo-rich second movement is particularly potent), while the finely reactive finale is spellbinding, especially as the music builds towards complete emotional collapse.

The Second Quartet is even more personal in its subject matter, being based on the composer's obsessive (unrequited) love for the much younger Kamila Stösslová, with whom he exchanged hundreds of letters. The Takács capture the turmoil of the music superbly, with its jarring switches of mood and moments of voluptuously warm lyricism.

Smetana's First Quartet is also very fine. The problem is that I have in my head the recent and utterly exceptional version by the Pavel Haas. The Takács aren't quite a match in sheer intensity, stunning viola playing and the raw drama of moments such as the violin high E that cuts through the finale, announcing Smetana's catastrophic deafness. But the Takács's Janácek is a must-hear.

Sinfini Music