The Takacs Quartet is well-known for its playing of Schubert quartets so I was eager to hear this disc, my first encounter with them in this repertory. It is an imaginative and alive performance of the incredible G-major quartet and sounds unlike the other performances of the music I have heard. The Takacs emphasizes the spooky aspect of the music through intense tremolos, some harmonics and large dynamic changes. To focus on the initial instance of this, the second theme of the first movement (in the first violin right after the opening "fanfare", mm. 15ff) is breathtaking through the softness of the tremolo accompaniment and the raw emotion of the playing. In the Andante, the second theme - played by the cello - is done very quietly with a whispering accompaniment in the upper strings. I've also recently been listening to the incredible performance of the Schubert d-minor "Death and the Maiden" quartet by the German-based Petersen Quartet and what struck me is that both ensembles have a similar take on Schubert -- one that emphasizes the supernatural, Gothic aspects of the 1820s Romanticism. There's melancholy in this Schubert, but also the terror of evil spirits and curses.
The Takacs are joined by pianist Andreas Haflinger for the Notturno (more night music!) for piano trio. The performance is good although they play the main upbeat rhythm which permeates the piece differently from interpretations I know.
I do have a few criticisms: There's the tendency by contemporary ensembles to always take double bars. I think this is a problem in the finale of the G-major quartet, where they should be omitted, as the movement always strikes me as overlong. Also, the sound quality of the recording is OK but not better than that.
That said, this is an imaginative, vivid rendition by musicians who clearly think for themselves and can realize the idea through polished musicmaking. Overall, an excellent CD.