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Beethoven: The String Quartets Vol 3 / The Lindsays

Release Date: 02/27/2001 
Label:  Asv   Catalog #: 1113   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Peter CropperRonald BirksRobin IrelandBernard Gregor-Smith,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lindsay String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Risk-taking, heart-on-sleeve readings from the Lindsays, even crisper than their earlier set and offering a bonus C major Quintet.

It’s wonderful how the Lindsays, after a career of more than 30 years, can still sound so fresh and spontaneous. From the start of Op 18 No 1 we feel that every phrase is shaped individually, the music felt as it’s being played. The dynamics are beautifully differentiated; pianissimo always has an altered sound compared with piano. Presenting the sense of the music and its emotions is always a priority, which leads to some daring interpretative decisions. The fast and fantastical finale of the Op 29 Quintet, with its scary tremolos and wild-sounding rubato in the first violin arpeggios is
Read more one example of a no-holds-barred approach that gets into the character of the music in a way that a more measured style couldn’t. It’s a splendid idea to include this neglected quintet as well as Beethoven’s brilliant arrangement of the Op 14 No 1 Piano Sonata; the Quintet’s rich, often complex, textures are relished, helping us to hear this work as a halfway house between the C major Quintets of Mozart and Schubert.

Despite the air of spontaneity, the Lindsays’ interpretations of Op 18 have remained very similar to those they offered us 20 years ago. The new recordings are certainly more crisp immediate than their analogue predecessors, yet the sound has a warmth that enhances the often very atmospheric playing; the mysterious pianissimo passages at the ends of the slow movements of Nos 3 and 6, for instance. The main difference in the playing is that the new performances are generally faster, brighter and rhythmically lighter, tending towards clearer articulation. The earlier version of No 2’s highly ornamented Adagio has a beautiful sustained sound; in this recording Peter Cropper plays the melody with more fantasy, giving a powerful, rhetorical expression to each phrase. The slight increase in speed of most of the allegros brings them more into line with Beethoven’s often challenging metronome marks – as a result there’s more sparkle and excitement, and the light touch means there’s rarely any sense of strain. The two Minuets, in Nos 4 and 5, benefit, too, from being played faster; the passionate C minor character in No 4 is brought out most persuasively. For the Adagio of No 6 the Lindsays, in common with most other groups, adopt a more flowing speed than Beethoven’s very slow suggestion, and their new recording is noticeably faster than the old. However, this is one of the most finely played movements in the set, with soft, sensuous tone, delicate ornamentation, and mysterious, tenuous unisons.

For the Adagio of No 1, on the other hand, Beethoven provides what seems to be a very fast tempo (138 quavers to the minute). The Lindsays play it a good deal slower – their earlier version has a particularly impressive, concentrated atmosphere. The 1933 Busch Quartet recording, however, shows how it’s possible for the movement to sound even more impressive at a speed close to Beethoven’s mark; the fiercely dramatic interruptions lose the somewhat ponderous effect they have when taken more slowly.

I find with these much-recorded quartets – in their way just as challenging to the performers as the later works – that it’s impossible to have a single favourite version. The Alban Berg Quartet, as daring in their expressive range as the Lindsays, give an unrivalled spring to the more dance-like movements – No 5’s Minuet, the allegretto section of No 6’s finale. The Emerson Quartet, extraordinarily nimble and precise in the quicker music, impart a fizzy, opera buffa quality to No 3’s finale. The Quartetto Italiano’s 1970s recordings still sound amazingly fine – no daringly fast speeds here, but the most finely blended sound and nobility of expression. Into this Pantheon the Lindsays fit very easily. I can’t think of a group that brings out better the startling range of the youthful Beethoven’s imagination.

-- Duncan Druce, Gramophone [4/2001]
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 6 in B flat major, Op. 18 no 6 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Peter Cropper (Violin), Ronald Birks (Violin), Robin Ireland (Viola),
Bernard Gregor-Smith (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lindsay String Quartet
Written: 1798/1800 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Holy Trinity Church, Wentworth, England 
Length: 26 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Quintet for Strings in C major, Op. 29 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Stephen Cropper (Violin), Ronald Birks (Violin), Robin Ireland (Viola),
Bernard Gregor-Smith (Cello), Louise Williams (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lindsay String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Holy Trinity Church, Wentworth, England 
Length: 31 Minutes 56 Secs. 

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