Beethoven String Quartets
These are the remarkable Rasumovskys of 1984: recorded when the Lindsays had just founded their own chamber music festival and were in their Beethoven heyday. The
These new transfers and repackagings remind one of the perfect ease of the Lindsay's chosen tempos, the cultivation of their converse, the sense of wonder in the sounds and ideas so excitedly recreated, and the fresh, clear air of the recording. Four years later, the Vegh's fine Rasumovsky appeared; and only taste can ultimately arbitrate between them. The Vegh Quartet make their interpretative points with a touch more underlining: their dynamic contrasts tend to be bolder (some might say cruder); they are not averse to a tiny rough edge or two, a longer pause for breath, a gentle tilt towards the bass.
It would take a plumb-line, though, to measure the comparative depth of feeling they each achieve in following Beethoven's wishes for the second movement of the E minor Quartet (the one Czerny claimed was written while looking up at a starry sky). This is one of the Lindsay's great moments and its austere intensity, each note poised with the clarity and brilliance of a single star in a constellation, follows a first movement as economical in manner as in matter. Their two opening chords are uniquely brilliantly focused, every crescendo and decrescendo urgently achieved, and Peter Cropper's leading melody a fine platinum line of song.
The First Rasumovsky, in F major, reveals the Lindsay's sense of awe in their exploration of the developmental material: every dynamic extreme, every varied touch and texture is of the utmost subtlety. It is this which so sharply distinguishes their playing from that of the Cleveland Quartet, who make big statements in a big, resonant acoustic, generating considerable excitement but, for me, overkilling the slow movements.
Each quartet, of course, offers its own insights but I have yet to hear an F major slow movement so painfully sentient as that created by the imagination of the Lindsay; or a C major first movement of such quietness and mystery; or an E minor finale which leaps so high.'