The string quartet, with its four individual participants, represents one of the most demanding configurations of human cooperation needed to achieve a result that cannot be achieved by one individual alone. The object of the string quartet is, of course, to re-create, perform, and communicate music in the service of art in the service of humanity.The analogies to other fields of endeavour, and with other configurations of human beings, are easily seen to be, in effect, endless. The achievement, which, in real time, must recur with effort and cooperation anew on each occasion; and the analogies to other undertakings and their necessary participants provide the lesson that is too infrequently acknowledged, too frequently regarded as complete and immutable, and too often insufficiently understood as a striving that must be constant.
Using the Beethoven quartets as example, the first violinist of the Takács String Quartet, Edward Dusinberre, has attempted to describe in his recent book, Beethoven for a Later Age, subtitled Living with the String Quartets, published in 2016, what is required for a group of individuals to function successfully as an ensemble or team, and how this collaboration serves a greater good. It further discusses the necessity of technical mastery, both instrumental and interpersonal, as preliminary but fundamental to the realization of common undertaking; and also makes plain that the written musical score as the well as the music work as a whole are both absolute and mutable. His discussions of how technique varies according to conditions in which the music, and interpretations of which, occur, makes clear that the concept of precise repetition does not hold; and his observations on how Beethoven sought to conclude the Op. 130 quartet, for which the composer wrote two different concluding movements, and how the final movement played influences the movements that precede it, makes clear that the concept of absolute organization and structure of a work also does not hold.
The Takács String Quartet was founded in Budapest in 1975. In 1983, having achieved distinction in quartet competitions in Evian (France), Portsmouth (England), Bordeaux (France), Budapest (Hungary), and Bratislava (Slovakia), it embarked on its first North American tour in 1982, and the following year became the quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1993, Edward Dusinberre succeeded Gábor Takács-Nagy, the Quartet’s founding first violinist, who departed the Quartet when he developed hand stress, which, however, resolved after therapy, and permitted him to resume musical activities elsewhere. In 2002-2004, the Quartet recorded the Beethoven cycle to great critical acclaim.