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Takacs Quartet to open Union Concert Series

Takacs Quartet to open Union Concert Series

'Our audiences have grown in the last 2 years and our concerts have been aired 40 times on national radio'
Takacs Quartet to open Union Concert Series
The Takacs Quartet, with Geraldine Walther at left, will perform next Sunday at Union College.
Photographer: Keith Saunders

SCHENECTADY — The Union College Concert Series celebrates its 46th season when it opens next Sunday (Oct.8) and Derek Delaney, its artistic director, can’t wait.

“It’s very, very exciting,” Delaney said. “Our audiences have grown in the last two years and our concerts have been aired forty times on national radio. That’s really, really wonderful because there’s tremendous competition to get on.”

What he is especially proud of is that international artists clamor to be on the series partly because of its strong reputation and that Delaney likes to put artists new to the area on it.

“I’m always listening,” he said. “I go to concerts year round. I think it’s very important to be an audience member and to experience an artist live and not listen to a CD. These are the titans of the music world.”

Among the artists making their debuts this fall are the Takacs Quartet (Oct. 8), Quatuor Mozaiques of Austria (Oct. 15) and the Welsh pianist Llyr Williams (Dec. 3).

But debuts are more than just working for a first time at a venue. For violist Geraldine Walther, it was moving from being a principal violist in a major orchestra for 30 years to working as the violist in the Takacs.

“It was hard at first. . . incredibly challenging,” she said from Boulder, Colorado where the quartet is based. “I practiced all the time to learn the repertoire. It’s the hardest. I was so worried to do a good job with players that were already a full blast quartet. I would wake up in the middle of the night and practice. Now after 12 years I am more comfortable. I’m not a rookie. But the quartet knew it was a big adjustment and tried to help me as much as they could. Once I began to express my opinions and get into long artistic arguments, they felt I was OK.”

Walther well remembers when she auditioned for the job.

“I had played a chamber music concert in the San Francisco area and my manager asked if I were interested in auditioning,” she said. “I thought why not try something new. It was still viola and still music. I can do this.”
Walther auditioned along with ten other violists and was the first to play for the quartet, which had been established in 1975.

“I wanted to nail it,” she said. “Then I called them to pester them to get the job and not forget me. It took a few months. I wore them down. They saw that I was hungry and wanted to do something different. I figured you only come by this once.”

‘It just clicked’

In contrast is the experience the Paris-based Modigliani Quartet’s new first violinist Amaury Coeytaux had. The quartet will perform Nov. 19, the quartet’s second appearance on the series and his first.

“I had known the quartet’s players from school,” Coeytaux said. “From the first time we played together, it just clicked. It was very simple, very nice.”

Coeytaux already had a reputation as a recitalist and worked regularly as a concertmaster in various orchestras, but he always wanted to play in a quartet.

“It’s a human adventure,” he said, ‘but it was a drastic decision. But the three guys are very good friends and we get along so well and we try to do our best. We’re having a good time.”

Delaney also struck up a deal with Curtis School of Music last season to spotlight young talent. This fall it will be pianist Janice Carissa (Dec. 10). The concert is free.

“Members of the faculty recommend and I listen to the live recitals via the school’s website,” he said. “I like to give talented young performers an opportunity on our series.”

The series also includes British sensation Benjamin Grosvenor (Nov. 5), British icon pianist Paul Lewis (Nov. 12), and the celebrated Boston Camerata (Dec. 17). The spring series continues with nine other concerts.

Union College Concert Series

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sundays
WHERE: Union College Memorial Chapel
HOW MUCH: $30, free to students with ID
MORE INFO: 518-388-6080; www.unioncollegeconcerts.org

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