We were lying on the bed, trying to get in a brief a nap before heading over to Berkeley to hear the Táckas Quartet perform at Hertz Hall. Isabella was tired- she had been up since a quarter to six that morning, a Saturday, first finishing some work for a client and then doing a seven-hour rehearsal for a play in which she was recently cast.  She wasn't really complaining, but simply talking about what a long day it had been so far, and how little sleep she had gotten the previous night, when I said, "Sush- at least you got shtupped last night."

"Speaking of shtupped," she replied, "your mother called me yesterday."

"Eww... oh god, why are you bringing my mother into this conversation?" and we both broke into laughter. 

Later that night, as we were riding home on BART, I started snickering and found I couldn't stop. I pointed toward the front of the car, telling her to look at the poster in front of us.

She started laughing too, and this went on for quite awhile. I know it's horribly juvenile to laugh at such a thing, but the graffiti perp did seem to be on to something: 


The concert began with a clean, bright performance of Schubert's Quartettsatz in C minor- the first movement of a quartet which the composer never bothered to finish since he couldn't figure out a way to match the brilliance of the first part. It's a nice bit, but there's something decidedly unsatisfying about hearing only the first movement of a work that by definition of form should have more to it. If Schubert couldn't be bothered to finish it, why should anyone bother to play it?

Next came Dvořák's Quartet in E-flat major, written after the composer had begun to meet with much success. Táckas caught all of the work's folk ballads and dances with aplomb, the first two movements led off by cellist András Fejér who played with a jaunty tone which was eagerly matched by second violin Karoly Schranz. The third movement Romanze closed with beautiful precision from all four players.

Táckas Quartet. Photo by Ellen Appel.

At intermission we stepped outside since it was an unusually warm and clear night.  Isabella decided it was time to disclose yet another in her seemingly never-ending list of talents and experiences by naming off a dozen constellations, including some I'd never heard of before. Later in the evening, walking down Bancroft, we spotted an exuberant party taking place inside a church, where it looked like dozens of people were dancing to House of Pain's "Jump Around," she would tell me about the time she met Timothy Leary and what a jerk she found him to be.

The second half of the concert was Beethoven's Opus 131 string quartet- the main attraction for me and probably most of the almost-full house. They began the first movement with a quickness I found a bit much, as it emphasized melody over drama and buried many of the conversational elements in the work. This continued into the second movement, and I noticed it was Schranz who seemed to be driving the tempo to a sprightly level. Still, principal violin Edward Dusinberre had many fine moments in these opening sections and violist Geraldine Walther reminded me of what a pleasure she was to hear when she performed with the San Francisco Symphony.

The quick pace continued to distract me, and then Fejér encountered a problem in the part of the fourth movement where the cello plays five notes in rapid succession (a motive which occurs repeatedly through the piece in different modes). He couldn't seem to get the last note off, and each time the cluster repeated he hit the same snag. This happened three times, I think. The group played through it, and I became more interested in the mechanics of it all- how the whole keeps it together when a part goes off the rails, than in following the music itself, until a simply ghastly sound came from the cello during the final allegro, which seemed to propel Dusinberre to a heightened intensity- his high notes just started to pour out with an emotion not evident in the earlier movements. That's when my attention somewhat left the music altogether and began to focus on execution, wondering and waiting for what came next while admiring Fejér's (and the others), ability to play through it all.

They received an enthusiastic standing ovation from many in the house, though there wasn't an encore. The concert was presented by Cal Performances.