An acclaimed pianist turns to France for inspiration in his first quartet

Takács Quartet: Dutilleux, Hough, Ravel


The Strad Issue: February 2023

Description: An acclaimed pianist turns to France for inspiration in his first quartet

Musicians: Takács Quartet

Works: Dutilleux: String Quartet ‘Ainsi la nuit’. Hough: String Quartet no.1 ‘Les six rencontres’. Ravel: String Quartet in F major

Catalogue number: HYPERION CDA 68400

Stephen Hough wrote his First String Quartet ‘Les six rencontres’ for the Takács Quartet, designed as a companion piece to the other two works here. The ‘six’ is a tangential reference to Les Six, the group of French composers active in Paris after World War I, whose music, Hough writes in the booklet notes, ‘evokes more a flavour than a style’. His six titled movements are attractive, often languid and certainly French-sounding, in some indefinable way. The Takács Quartet is alive to their many characters, whether the debonair ‘Au parc’, with its engaging melody, the busy counterpoint of ‘À l’hôtel’ or the bustling ‘Au marché’.

The players are equally fine tracing the myriad intricacies in the Nocturne of Dutilleux’s quartet; there are fierce interchanges in ‘Litanies’, the textures dry and transparent. Vitality courses through the rhythmic and textural complexities of ‘Constellations’ and on into the mysterious disjointed fragments of ‘Nocturne II’ and the final ‘Temps suspendu’.

Ravel’s quartet opens with tenderness and limpid lyricism. The second movement abounds in nervous energy, while the slow third is a glistening tapestry of delicate textural colours. The finale is all energy and purpose, driving through to its final jubilant bars. The recording is clear and warm.