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The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 with Edward Dusinberre joining as first violinist in 1993. Born in Leamington Spa, he now lives in Boulder, Colorado, where the quartet is based. His account ranges widely on aspects of quartet life and beyond.

Dusinberre relates how looking around the group while trying to play ‘with a less rigid posture’ can be a perilous activity. And he reminds us of the old adage: ‘Look up, screw up’. He describes how Geraldine Walther, joining as the quartet’s new violist in 2005, would sometimes wake up at 2am to practise for several hours in order to prepare the large number of works the Takács played during her first season.

Dusinberre is not shy to refer his readers to popular performers to emphasise a point he is making. For example, on the debate concerning the force given to the repetition of final chords in Beethoven’s Opus 131, he discusses the question of which of the many chords used will prove to be the final one, ‘a feature parodied in Dudley Moore’s magnificent Beethovian Colonel Bogey March.’ Similarly, Dusinberre confesses that he clears his head by ‘blasting’ Jamie Cullum’s album Twentysomething through his headphones. Clearly, Dusinberre’s life is not lived in an ivory tower.

Much of the charm and wit of Dusinberre’s writing comes from his readiness to make fun of himself. For example, here he is thinking about which brand of strings to use: ‘Perhaps a brighter sound for the G and D and a warmer sound for the A would suit my violin the best? Or the opposite? Were the Infelds really an improvement on the dark power of the Vision Titanium Solos or the subtle warmth of the Pirastro Olives? It was a heady time not only for me but for my wife Beth and four-year-old son Sam, struggling to restrain their over-excitement at the dinner table as I explained the pros and cons of different types of strings and wondered whether or not to schedule a last-minute soundpost adjustment in London.’

Dusinberre has given us a most readable account. Well-written, modern and witty, it can be highly recommended.

JOHN ROBERT BROWN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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