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Gerald Carpenter: String Quartets Rule the Week at Music Academy of the West

The Takács Quartet is the flagship ensemble of the Music Academy of the West’s String Quartet Seminar.
The Takács Quartet is the flagship ensemble of the Music Academy of the West’s String Quartet Seminar. (Peter Smith photo)

The Music Academy of the West's Summer Festival began this week, as it always has, with a solo piano masterclass led by the master of masters, Jerome Lowenthal. This is followed by a full week of masterclasses.

The first performance by some of the academy's stellar guest artists (although the artists in question, after many years of residencies, are by now quasi-faculty) is by that admirable ensemble, the Takács Quartet (Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz on violins; Geraldine Walther on viola and András Fejér on cello), at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Hahn Hall on the Miraflores campus (1070 Fairway Road).

The Takács will perform Franz Josef Haydn's String Quartet No. 62 in C-Major, Opus 76, No. 3, the “Emperor” (1796–1797), Carter Pann's String Quartet No. 2, "Operas" (2014) and Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No. 7 in F-Major, Opus 59, "Rasumovsky," No. 1 (1806). (The Pann quartet was commissioned by Justus and Elizabeth Schlichting as a tribute to former Music Academy president NancyBell Coe.)

The Takács concert is the highest profile event of a weeklong Music Academy seminar on the string quartet, involving all the academy string faculty, the Takács and the string fellows. The Takács will lead a String Chamber Master Class at 1 p.m. Thursday in Lehmann Hall in the Miraflores main building.

The week will culminate in a special "Picnic Concert" — at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall — featuring the academy fellows who have formed string quartets since arriving and who will perform works and then talk about them with the audience.

Glossing on Buckminster Fuller, Hugh Kenner wrote of the common overhand knot: “Slide the knot along the rope: you are sliding the rope through the knot. Slide through it, if you have them spliced in sequence, hemp rope, cotton rope, nylon rope. The knot is indifferent to these transactions. The knot is neither hemp nor cotton nor nylon: is not the rope. The knot is a patterned integrity. The rope renders it visible.”

It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to say that the string quartet is another kind of patterned integrity. The Takács renders it visible; the music renders it audible. It is curious that the combination of two violins, a viola, and a cello should achieve such permanence, while most other ensembles should appear ad hoc, but there it is. Only the piano-violin-cello trio has achieved anything like the string quartet's stability, and the literature for the trio stands as a tiny fraction of the vast number of scores available to the string quartet.

Tickets to the Takács Quartet concert are $10 and $50, with those ages 7 to 17 admitted free. Tickets to the String Chamber Master Class are $13. Tickets to the String Quartet Picnic Concert are $30. For tickets and other information, call 805.969.8787 or click here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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