Haydn String Quartets
When, in 1987, The Lindsays set out to record Haydn quartets for ASV the first issues stemmed from live performances, given at the Wigmore Hall, in the 'Genius of Haydn' Festival that year. On that series they included the two named quartets on this new disc of studio recordings, and the contrasts are fascinating. Unlike most rivals they again observe second-half as well as exposition repeats in the first movements of each work, so giving extra weight to structures which fully merit such treatment. Otherwise, the contrasts are striking, if roughly what one would expect between live and studio performances.
The gains greatly outweigh any losses; these are among the finest Haydn quartet recordings I have heard in years, performances which I am sure will quickly establish themselves as classics of the genre. They are consistently a degree more refined in texture and control of dynamic, while the ensemble is more polished. Yet the feeling of spontaneity is just as intense as before, with Haydn's witty moments being pointed even more infectiously, as in the finale of Op 76 No 2 where in the main theme the little upward portamentos at the end of the eighth bar are delectably timed on each occurrence. The live account of the first movement of the Emperor may be a degree bluffer, but the studio version, more refined, has just as much fun in it, heightened by extra light and shade.
The studio sound is fuller, too, and far better balanced, so that one can register far more clearly than before the first violin's rapid triplets in the finale of the Emperor; it's ideally crisp articulation. Matching the new performances of the Fifths and the Emperor, The Lindsays' account of Op 76 No 1 is just as strongly characterised. The sense of fun in the opening Allegro con spirito is deliciously brought out, leading on to an account of the sublime Adagio, both dedicated and refined, which conveys a Beethovenian depth of expression, making most rivals sound smoothly superficial. I cannot wait to hear the companion disc, due to follow, with the remaining three quartets of Op 76.'