So many factors can change the mood — from warm and intimate to turbulent to playful — of chamber music.
Even the feel of the audience can affect and interact with the music, according to Geraldine Walther, violist of the Takacs String Quartet, which is set to perform a Center for the Performing Arts concert on Oct. 1. The concert is part of a three-day Takacs residency that includes performances and engagement activities at Penn State’s University Park and Altoona campuses.
Second violinist Karoly Schranz, cellist Andras Fejer and two others formed the ensemble in Budapest, Hungary, in 1975. England native and first violinist Edward Dusinberre joined the quartet in 1993. In 2005, Walther, who had been principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony, joined Takacs, which won a Grammy for best chamber music performance in 2003 and was the first string quartet inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame.
The concert will feature Haydn’s String Quartet No. 50 in B-flat Major, Opus 64, No. 3; Leos Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” and Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Opus 10.
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Stylistically, they are distinct. Even though the Janacek and Debussy quartets were written in the early 20th century, the piece’s tonal complexities are different, Walther said.
“The Janacek is almost problematic,” Walther said. “It’s very much about his experience with unrequited love with this much younger, married woman. It’s not the first time great art has been created out of the feeling of love for another. There is a lot of beauty and there is a lot of longing, turbulence, excitement.”
The third composition is the only quartet work by Debussy, an artistic experiment to match the French Impressionist-era setting of its composer.
“It remains one of the great pieces of chamber music and one of the great string quartets in the literature,” Walther said. “With Impressionism happening in the visual arts, the music was going through it too. This quartet is so much fun to play, so many colors. You can see his mind working on: ‘What can I do with the colors of these four instruments?’ ”
The piece is also among one that Walther counts as an old friend, a selection the quartet hasn’t played in years. The Janacek was part of a recording the musicians created this summer but the Haydn is a recent addition to their repertoire.
“I always think I know a piece, but I’ll put it up on the stand and it feels entirely new. We like that. That’s the way it ought to be,” Walther said.
“Artistic Viewpoints,” a moderated discussion featuring the quartet, will be offered in Schwab one hour before the performance.