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Having toured the world with its Beethoven cycle as the old millennium entered the new, the Takacs Quartet now commits the same to disc. This two-CD set from Decca includes the three Razumovsky quartets, Op.59 of 1806, and the Harp Quartet, Op.74, sometimes known as the Lobkowitz after its dedicatee, composed in 1809. Although the latter's presto yields the fastest version of the fate motif Beethoven ever wrote, it is possible to go too quickly as the Takacs does here, making triplets of the first notes which are not written as such. The speed of the dazzling finale of the Razumovsky No 3 is impressive but just fails to grip as firmly as a slightly slower, more controlled performance might.
The Thème Russe last movement of the Razumovsky No 1 on the other hand is a model of restraint, the playful parts entering from all angles with delightful measured precision, polished and perfect. The Takacs' music breathes as if in a meditative trance the broad, shallow arch of the molto adagio which lasts a satisfying quarter-hour in Razumovsky No 2. The four play best what is calculated and intricate like the theme and variations which conclude the Harp Quartet, giving each episode a distinct flavour. Variety is more important than usual on one-composer recordings such as this and the members of the Takacs Quartet prove themselves contemplative Beethovenians who occasionally mistake the gallop for a stampede. --Rick Jones