-The Takács Quartet was back (Celebrity Series of Boston) with a perfect program: late Haydn (Opus 71 No. 2), middle Bartók (the feverish, tightly knit No. 3), and Schubert’s vast final quartet (D.887). With its calculated mixture of folk music and courtly sophistication, seriousness and wit, deceptive simplicity and harmonic complexity, the Haydn invited us in and set the tone for the rest of the evening. The Bartók, with its ominous bow taps and shivery slides, plucking and strumming, and dark lyricism, upped the technical ante, and the Takács met that with vigor and scintillating aplomb, also letting us hear songs and dances under all the hair-raising demands. And the Schubert — with its epic scale and insinuating intimacy, its sense of warmth (never merely pretty) and ferocious intensity, its slippery and heartbreaking modulations — took us on a far-reaching and compelling journey, ending in a tarantella that was both an assertion of life and a chilling dance of death.
-Glamour-boy Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, with his shoulder-length silver locks, may not be the most sophisticated dresser (at his latest Celebrity Series recital, at Symphony Hall, he appeared in a knee-length black frock coat with yards of glittering lapels), or have the best French, or sing with much vocal — or musical — variety or nuance. But he certainly has one of the world’s most beautiful voices, and he can fill the hall with his silken legato. His program of French, Russian, and Italian songs — Fauré (including the ravishing “Après une rêve”), Taneev, Liszt (two of the three Petrarch Sonnets), and Tchaikovsky — played to his strengths. And so did his accomplished, refined pianist, the Estonian Ivari Ilja, whom I liked much better than I did the last time he accompanied Hvorostovsky here five years ago. The two encores were an opera aria (the snarling “Credo” of Verdi’s Iago) and a Rachmaninov song with a final floated pianissimo that still hasn’t ended.
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