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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet No. 66 in G major, Op. 77/1 (1799) [23.30]
String Quartet No. 67 in F major, Op. 77/2 (1799) [25.10]
String Quartet No. 35 in D minor, Op. 42 (1785) [15.57]
String Quartet No. 68 in D minor, Op. 103 (1803) [11.12]
The Lindsays: (Peter Cropper, violin; Ronald Birks, violin; Robin Ireland, viola; Bernard Gregor-Smith, cello)
rec. Holy Trinity Church, Wentworth, England, 20-22 January 2004. DDD
ASV GOLD GLD4010 [76.54]
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Founded forty years ago, the eminent Lindsay Quartet sadly disbanded in July 2005. It was announced that each of the four players were to go their own separate ways. Enthusiastic and often animated leader Peter Cropper is continuing to perform as a soloist and chamber musician. Cropper’s plans include complete cycles and recordings of all the Beethoven violin sonatas with pianist Martin Roscoe. Cropper and Roscoe have teamed up to form a trio with cellist Moray Welsh. I am looking forward to attending one of their recitals at Stonyhurst College in Clitheroe, Lancashire in a few weeks time. The Lindsays have left behind a legacy of wonderful recordings.

In my opinion there are few things better in music than the finest of Haydn’s String Quartets. They are not recorded nearly as often as their esteemed reputation deserves. Ensembles tend to concentrate on the chamber works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. The first project of the complete recordings of the Haydn quartets, that I am aware of, was from the Aeolian Quartet on Decca between 1972 and 1976. The acclaimed complete survey from the Angeles String Quartet was recorded between 1994 and 1999 for Philips and won a prestigious Grammy award for ‘Best Chamber Music Performance’ in 2001. The other main contender is the celebrated digital version of the complete cycle from the Kodály Quartet. Those were recorded for Naxos over a ten year period. Although not a complete survey the Lindsays have recorded many of Haydn’s quartets for ASV and have demonstrated a special affinity for these scores.

The Lindsays frequently issue live recordings of their recitals but this release is a studio recording that was made at the Holy Trinity Church, Wentworth, in January, 2004.

The String Quartet in D minor, Op. 42 although cast in four movements is relatively short in length and is technically one of the less difficult of Haydn’s quartets. In an excellent performance from the Lindsays I admire the way they gracefully provide the mood of relaxed give-and-take in the opening movement and rhythmic panache in the menuetto. The pair of Op. 77 String Quartets are impressively played with high integrity, maintaining an impressive grip. Here the Lindsays convincingly convey Haydn’s range of experience from rustic earthiness, sociable wit and lyrical tenderness. Ill health prevented Haydn completing his String Quartet in D minor, Op. 103 which was his last attempt to write in the genre. The Lindsays are able to blend a commitment and enthusiasm that carries the listener along with the exhilaration of the moment, with appropriate measures of graciousness and melancholy. There are string quartets around with a higher level of security of ensemble than the Lindsays but very few with as much genuine musical rapport with the composer.

Michael Cookson


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