to my taste, britten's three quartets are one of the high points of 20th century chamber music, and they are now available in a spate of new recordings. the takacs quartet recording is distinctive in several respects, some welcome and others less so.
the current takacs is not what it was (the eponymous first violinist gábor takács-nagy has been replaced and violist gábor ormai has been replaced twice), and this accounts for quite a change in the quartet sound from their warm and splendid recordings of the mozart "haydn" quartets or the haydn op.76 quartets. i think the unity of the group has suffered as a result; the first violin has a relatively strident tone when loud and occasionally pushes sul ponticello into unpleasant scritching. even so, this is a fine overall effort and convenient to have on one disc -- and while that is mostly convenient for the publisher (the rip generation has no concern for physical format), the savings have been invested in providing an excellent commentary insert.
the esthetic of the current ensemble, as projected in this recording, is decidedly lyrical. although they seem motivated to highlight even subtle details of the score, such as the starting note of a trill or the legato connection within melody notes, they employ one of the broadest dynamic palettes i have heard in these pieces: in the C major "chacony" the cello is at one point barely audible. they highlight the vocal contour in slower movements and impart a distinctive dancelike quality to the faster movements, emphasizing notes with accent and timing to produce a swing, lilt or caper. i found these aspects of their performance intriguing and enjoyable, especially in the first and third quartets; the second quartet may lack the full measure of pathos and gravitas, but even here there are the insights of a distinctive interpretation.