The Strad Issue: July 2016
Description: The Takács on top form in two French masterpieces
Musicians: Takács Quartet, Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Composer: Debussy; Franck
Catalogue number: HYPERION CDA68061

Marc-André Hamelin has made a number of outstanding recordings, yet his playing in Franck’s Quintet is in a class apart, captured in sound of almost tactile presence. There are occasions – as in the Molto moderato opening section – when he appears to be merely breathing on the keys, shaping phrases with acute sensitivity to mood and atmosphere. The Takács follows him every inch of the way, with playing of impassioned eloquence that fully conveys the music’s sensuous longing and (especially in the central Lento) its tantalising inflamed purity. Just occasionally the ensemble’s relatively generous, medium-paced vibrato and portamento-intensified espressivo become almost too much of a good thing.

That same sense of Romantic rhetoric getting the upper hand is no less apparent in the Debussy. It is masterfully played and powerfully projected, and there is an almost orchestral emotional resonance about the Takács’s textural vitality and sonic refulgence. More than usual, one is made aware of Debussy’s admiration of Russian music at this time rather than his near-contemporaneous fascination with the nature of sound in Prélude Á  l’après-midi d’un faune. Such a gloriously opulent approach leads the ear to expect a Tchaikovskian melodic explosion at any time which, needless to say, never arrives.

Julian Haylock