Gábor Takács-Nagy is coming home.
The founding first violinist of CU’s resident Takács Quartet lived in Boulder for six years, 1986–92, until a hand problem forced him to withdraw from playing. He returns to Boulder Friday as a conductor, leading the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) in a concert of music by Haydn, C.P.E. Bach and Bartók (7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, in Macky Auditorium).
Takács-Nagy’s place in the Takács Quartet was taken in 1993 by English violinist Edward Dusinberre, who remains the quartet’s first violinist. Of the original quartet, violinist Károly Schranz and cellist András Fejér remain.
The Nov. 6 concert will also feature cellist István Várdai playing Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major and C.P.E. Bach’s Cello Concerto in A major, Wq. 172. Also on the program are the Symphony No. 49 in F minor by Haydn (“La Passione”) and the Divertimento for String Orchestra by Bartók.
After leaving the Takács Quartet and Boulder, Takács-Nagy returned to Europe and played for a while with other groups, but he has not performed in concert since 2008. In the meantime, he has conducted several orchestras. He is currently principal conductor of the Manchester Camerata in England and principal guest conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. He has been principal artistic partner of the ICO since 2013.
“The Irish Chamber Orchestra are really good, close friends, all of them in the orchestra,” he says. “The orchestra is fantastic with this (program).”
The concert opens with the F-minor Symphony by Haydn — a composer, along with Bartók, that Hungarians consider to be partly theirs, since he spent so many years of his life working for the Hungarian Esterházy family. The F minor Symphony was composed for the Esterházy orchestra in 1768 and is considered an example of Haydn’s dramatic sturm und drang (storm and stress) style.
“Nobody will be bored for a second during this,” Takács- Nagy says. “Haydn has so much contrast, so many unexpected things that’s it’s fascinating. It’s like a Krimi (a crime novel or film). You never know what’s happening in the next second.”
At the age of 30 Várdai is building an international career. A three-time winner of the David Popper International Competition in Budapest, he was described by Takács-Nagy as “brilliant, brilliant” and “one of the great cellists on the scene.”
“He plays in a way that is unbelievably great,” Takács- Nagy says.
Of the two concertos Várdai will play, the Haydn Concerto in C major is quite well known, but Takács-Nagy believes that the audience will enjoy discovering the C.P.E. Bach concerto. “I did not know it, but it is fascinating and full of unexpected harmonies,” he says.
Carl Philipp Emanuel was the fifth child of J.S. Bach.
Far less known to audiences than his father, he was long employed by Frederick the Great in Berlin. He wrote symphonies — some of the earliest works of the genre — and many concertos for keyboard and orchestra, one of which may represent the original form of the A-major Cello Concerto.
He is known for writing in an idiosyncratic style, full of unexpected pauses and sudden changes of har-mony. Or as Takács- Nagy says, “It has a lot of pepper, a lot of spice in it. It’s very emotional, highly temperamental music [by] an exciting composer.”
The Bartók Divertimento for Strings might seem an odd choice for an Irish orchestra. Musical styles are often deeply rooted in language and folk music, and in both respects Hungarian, with spiky, asymmetrical rhythms and uneven phrases, is far removed from Irish folk song. But Takács- Nagy says, “They are really doing this very well.
“This is one of my absolute favorite pieces,” he continues. “I did it many times with the orchestra. Like every Bartók piece, the Hungarian language and Hungarian folk music is very strongly in it. There are many motives that remind me of Hungarian folk songs I heard from my greatgrandmother.
“I talked with the orchestra about the Hungarian language, and even sang to them Hungarian folk songs.
Somehow they feel it very, very well, I have to say. I was quite surprised, because I thought only Hungarians can feel it so deeply, but they are not only a very good orchestra, but they feel these kinds of things.”
Takács-Nagy says he loves the music on the program, but it is the Boulder homecoming that has him really excited. “I’m really very happy to go back to Boulder after so many years,” he says. “It will be a homecoming. We will have a dinner after, and I’m so happy I’m counting the days.
“I’m really so happy and grateful to [members of the quartet] that they continue what we started together, on such an unbelievably high level.”