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The Takács Quartet, masters of Bartok

This season the Takács Quartet is touring all six of Bartok’s string quartets, spread over two concerts.
This season the Takács Quartet is touring all six of Bartok’s string quartets, spread over two concerts.Ellen Appel

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The Takács Quartet’s roots in Bartok’s string quartets run deep. Founded in 1975, the foursome, originally all Hungarians, learned Bartok’s music with the violinist Zoltán Székely, the composer’s close friend. Its two recordings of the quartets are excellent, and quite different from one another. This season they are touring all six, spread over two concerts. The Boston cycle began on Thursday with the odd-numbered quartets.

Conventional wisdom holds that there are two schools of playing this music: the “modernist” school, which emphasizes the forward-looking aspects of Bartok’s language, and a more “Romantic,” less astringent style. I am increasingly skeptical that this neat division, if it ever existed, does now. This music is too familiar, too much in our ears, to admit of such easy binaries.

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