Tippett String Quartets, Vol. 1

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Tippett String Quartets, Vol. 1

  • String Quartet No. 3
  • String Quartet No. 5

The Kreutzer Quartet have already made their mark with Tippett in the concert-hall, and this recording of his two most extended and complex quartets has been eagerly awaited.
There is, inevitably, a challenge here to the well-established readings by the Lindsay Quartet, although I can’t say that I was struck by any substantial differences of interpretation. Where differences are most noticeable are in the recordings. After all, the Lindsay’s analogue version of No. 3 dates back to 1975, and the sound is not as natural and airy as that on the new Chandos disc, recorded in The Maltings, Snape and combining clarity and atmosphere in ideal proportions. As a result, some of the teeming contrapuntal detail, especially in No. 3, is less precise on ASV than on Chandos: on the other hand, the Lindsay adopt a slightly less deliberate, more flowing style in the rich counterpoint of the Third Quartet’s second movement, and are, marginally, even more joyously exuberant in the dazzling central fugue.
The differences in sound – the Lindsay strongly homogeneous, the Kreutzer players more individualized – are also evident in No. 5, despite the fact that in this case the Lindsay’s version is only four years old. The Lindsay are in general more forthright, a definite bonus in the questing final stages, while the Kreutzer’s slightly more laid-back attitude pays dividends in those ethereal yet deeply poetic passages which make this work one of Tippett’s most unambiguously visionary utterances.
It is possible that the Kreutzer’s forthcoming versions of the other three quartets will help to make the choice between these two fine groups of players easier. Nevertheless, I sense that both have gone to the heart of this rich music, and that both versions will offer sustained enjoyment and illumination.'

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