Once more, the Cheltenham Music Society has triumphed, in securing the Takács Quartet for their tour's only UK out-of-London recital: recognised as one of the world's leading ensembles, last night they played for a packed Pittville Pump Room audience Haydn's "Lark", Britten no. 3 and Dvořák Op. 51. Could the programming possibly have been influenced by all three works being led off by the second violinist, Károly Schranz, 60 this year? Whatevs.
Talking to Alec Hamilton beforehand, I learnt that he "suffers" Haydn. Poor man! How else can you account for Beethoven? There are a couple of bars in the first movement of the "Lark" and more than a couple in the last movement that pre-echo even late Beethoven.
And without Beethoven, no Britten: his intense last quartet formed the meat course last night. The soaring violin of the Ostinato 2nd movement even outmatching in its eloquence the leader's role in the "Lark" opening.
You can still hear the Takács playing the Haydn and Dvořák (at the Wigmore on Monday) via the iPlayer for five days more. They look and sound like a happy bunch. With their talent, they are as generous as Bill Gates says he would have all the American Presidential candidates be - but some hope there!
Also on Monday, the young Russians making up the Atrium Quartet were broadcast live. Catching up with them on the iPlayer, I admired their early Beethoven in particular: a different sound, but gripping. This quartet is one to watch out for.