The Lindsays – Beethoven 5

Beethoven
String Quartet in A, Op.18/5
String Quartet in C, Op.59/3 (Razumovsky)
String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op.131

The Lindsays
[Peter Cropper & Ronald Birks (violin), Robin Ireland (viola) & Bernard Gregor-Smith (cello)]


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 15 July, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

In the penultimate concert of its valedictory Beethoven cycle, The Lindsays gave typically committed and searching accounts of examples from the composer’s ‘early’, ‘middle’ and ‘late’ periods. This is music central to The Lindsays’ repertoire and has been for over 40 years. Over such time there has been no dulling of the musicians’ response to it; indeed, this recital fairly crackled with electricity, no doubt fuelled by ‘final time’ implications.

It seems that with The Lindsays each performance is a fresh experience, that irrespective of how many past accounts and how much preparation, for this ensemble there is nothing quite like playing a piece of music there-and-then for an audience. Sometimes it seems that Peter Cropper is up there by himself tuned to a different scale, his three colleagues acting as mere underlings. The opening work, the rather urbane A major, begun in decidedly polytonal terms given the discrepancy in pitch between Cropper and the rest. There was other roughness, too, and a lack of poise, yet the lively engagement was some compensation. In music that recalls Mozart and Haydn, maybe more finesse is needed, but the group has the wit needed for Beethoven’s flirtations and for such contrasts as in the third movement’s variations – from still reflection to a right knees-up!

Initial problems of ‘basics’ (tuning and togetherness) had settled during the opening work. The third of the ‘Razumovsky’ collection begun as suspended in time, The Lindsays searching out the music’s strangeness to compelling effect and emerging into ‘light’ for a propulsive Allegro vivace. And how fascinatingly inexplicable was the ‘endless’ melody of the succeeding Andante con moto, the anchoring pizzicatos resonating on Bernard Gregor-Smith’s cello – the linchpin of The Lindsays. The ‘moto perpetuo’ finale was a tour de force of human endeavour to sustain a force of nature; rough-hewn, never for a second ‘empty’ or slick, The Lindsays’ concentration could only be relieved by a volley of ‘bravos’.The C sharp minor Quartet was given with a wholeness and intensity that made blemishes of no importance. The Lindsays see the end of the work in its beginning (to use a cliché, if an apt one) as this continuous, seven- (or five-) movement work was unfolded in one breath.

Occasionally one would like a little more time given to some phrases, and that Ronald Birks would be rather more than a ‘second fiddle’ – yet the urgency (which doesn’t mean ‘too fast’) with which these musicians deliver Beethoven always seems to square with the composer’s ‘heart to heart’ invention – no blarney, no false gods, no gloss: just total truth. That said, the pivotal Andante did seem a little hasty – although notable for some pizzicato banter receiving audible laughter from the audience – albeit its depth wasn’t questioned. The following scherzo was demonic (Gregor-Smith once again rock-solid), and the finale was enthralling as the four musicians dug-in with fearless regard to steer the work home to vindication. More bravos, and quite a contrast to the slow, rarefied fugal opening in which a pin, if dropped, could have been heard.

The Lindsays offer no compromise to either themselves or an audience; the music is the only thing that matters; certainly, on this occasion, the profundity and individuality of the C sharp minor Quartet was burnt-in to listeners’ consciousness in no uncertain terms.



  • Lindsays – final Beethoven concert on 16 July and two concerts with Friends on 23 July
  • Wigmore Hall

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