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Veteran string quartet, young keyboard star visit Mondavi Center

The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, while all four original members of the group were students. The group played at Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus in 1998. Courtesy photo

The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, while all four original members of the group were students. The group played at Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus in 1998. Courtesy photo

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March 26, 2011 | Leave Comment

Details

What: The Takács Quartet and pianist Noboyuki Tsujii

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 2

Where: Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center

Tickets: $35-$68 general, $17.50-$34 students; visit http://www.mondaviarts.org or call (530) 754-2787

A veteran string quartet with Hungarian roots — widely regarded as among the best currently performing anywhere — and a rising keyboard star from Japan will be featured at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 2, when the Takács Quartet is joined by pianist Noboyuki Tsujii in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center.

The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, while all four original members of the group were students. The group first received international attention in 1977, winning first prize and the critics’ prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. The quartet won several other prizes in the late 1970s, and made its North American debut tour in 1982.

The Takács Quartet appeared locally at Freeborn Hall in 1998, touring in support of its landmark 1998 recording of the six quartets by composer Béla Bartók (on the Decca label) — a set that won the Gramophone Award for Best Chamber Music Recording. More recently, the quartet was nominated for a Grammy Award for best chamber music performance for its 2003 recording of Brahms String Quartet, Op. 51, No. 2 (on the Hyperion label).

Like most string quartets, the group has an academic affiliation, and is now based out of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where the four members teach for part of the year.

The membership of the quartet has changed a bit over the decades. Two of the original members — second violinist Károly Schranz and cellist András Fejér — continue to play with the group. Current first violinist Edward Dusinberre, a British musician who studied at the Royal College of Music and the Juilliard School, joined the quartet in 1993. Current violist Geraldine Walther, an American, joined in the group in 2005.

Walther is familiar to Mondavi Center audiences; she was a member of the San Francisco Symphony for nearly 30 years, including many years as principal viola, and has performed at the Davis hall several times.

Walther also appeared at Mondavi with the UC Davis Symphony as soloist in March 2003, playing in the Hector Berlioz symphony “Harold in Italy,” as well as the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, with violinist Jorja Fleezanis, then the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra. Fleezanis retired from that post in 2009.

Tsujii, a 23-year-old pianist, is by comparison a relative newcomer. Blind since birth, he reportedly began playing on his own at age 2, picking out “Jingle Bells” on a toy piano after hearing his mother sing the tune. Formal piano lessons began at age 4, and he won several prizes in his homeland of Japan.

In October 2005, at age 17, Tsujii reached the semifinal round and received the critics’ award at the 15th International Frederik Chopin Piano Competition in Poland, one of the world’s major competitions.

Tsujii then shot to the world’s attention in 2009, when he was the co-winner of the first prize at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas (in a tie with Haochen Zhang of China). Numerous concert engagements and a recording contract with the Harmonia Mundi label followed.

Tsujii is scheduled to make his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall in November. (To see his performance style, check out videos posted on YouTube.)

The program will feature the Takács Quartet performing Josef Haydn’s String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 74, No. 3 (nicknamed “The Rider” because of the cantering rhythms in the opening). The piece was written in 1793, shortly after Haydn had visited London, where he was venerated as a celebrity.

The Takács Quartet also will play Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 7, dating from 1908-09. Tsujii will join the group for a performance of German composer Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, one of the composer’s best-known chamber works, dating from 1842.

There will be a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. in Jackson Hall featuring Edward Dusinberre, the quartet’s first violinist, in conversation with Mondavi Center executive director Don Roth.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8055.

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