The Lindsays & Friends

Concert No.1 @ 4.00

Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546
String Quintet in G minor, K516
Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout)

Concert No.2 @ 7.30

Oboe Quartet in F, K370
Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op.115
String Quintet in C, D956

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

Leon Bosch (double bass)
Nicholas Daniel (oboe)
Janet Hilton (clarinet)
Kathryn Stott (piano)
Paul Watkins (cello)
Louise Williams (viola)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 23 July, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

As Peter Cropper explained at the start of the first concert The Lindsays have been running a series of ‘Lindsays & Friends’ concerts in Sheffield for several years and so it seemed appropriate to bow out with similar events in London. The Quartet’s friends are a pretty distinguished group and the performances ranged from mediocre to magnificent.

The two duds were Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue and Oboe Quartet. Neither are particularly distinguished works and in the Fugue Leon Bosch’s contribution was pretty lumpy and all of the performers failed to make this music sound anything other than repetitive. In the Oboe Quartet everyone’s intonation was awry, with Nicholas Daniel’s often distressingly so and he was far too loud. However, Mozart G minor Quintet is a more substantial work and here the approach was classical – clean lines, clearly focused tone, controlled vibrato and an element of understatement that actually emphasised the work’s bleakness: a very fine performance.

Brahms’s late Clarinet Quintet is usually seen as being musing and autumnal and, particularly in the last movement, there were elements of this here. But Hilton and The Lindsays had noted that, other than in the slow movement, the work uses short rhythmic and melodic devices and divergent instrumental voices; the musicians maintained a lucid and animated sense of conversation and a very wide dynamic range, thus avoiding romantic mush; this was nearly a great rendition.

Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet received a superbly focused performance that – thankfully – eschewed chocolate-box Viennese charm. Rhythmic attack was buoyant with biting sforzandos, and an inexorable sense of sweep and power pervaded every bar. Kathryn Stott never sought to dominate and yet conveyed a sense of individuality and strength. The only criticism was the antics of Leon Bosch who opted to stand and whose body movements would have graced ‘Animal’ from “The Muppets”; on several occasions I expected him to give the instrument a complete twirl – very irritating.

The final work was another Lindsays speciality, the great Schubert Quintet – The Lindsays and Douglas Cummings have recorded the finest modern version of the work (ASV) – and with Paul Watkins it received another great reading. As in the ‘Trout’ the attack was sometimes ferocious and tempos were never allowed to drag, but in the first movement’s second subject there was a rarefied purity of expression (if not intonation!) And at the point in the formidable recapitulation where the second subject returns in the tonic there was intense concentration and a sense of roller-coaster power. The tempo for the Adagio was broad but not slow enough to allow the long-phrased melodic accompaniment to disintegrate into blocks of sound. The pizzicato dialogue between the first violin and the second cello was rapt and ethereal and the march’s return after the central storm – explosively played – was heart-rending in its simplicity and beauty.

Beethoven created the Scherzo form, but even he never composed anything so bleak and contrasted as this one by Schubert; The Lindsays perfectly realised every change of emotion. The last movement was given with steady tempo and propelled with enormous conviction, inexorable power and logic. A standing ovation followed: even if this had not been The Lindsays last London appearance, this performance would have deserved such recognition.

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