The first digitally recorded Bartók quartet cycle, long unavailable: ferociously intelligent readings in superb sound that have stood the test of time against other classic interpretations in the storied discography of these works.
The Lindsays’ Bartók cycle, recorded by ASV in 1980–81, marked the culmination of a decade of intense study and concert performances of the cycle, much of it done in Hungary with eminent string players. Reviewers found that the acoustic of Rosslyn Hill Chapel in north London made an ideal complement to the Lindsays’ searching accounts, recorded in studio conditions but preserving the risk-and-reward strategy of their live performances. The Quartet’s charismatic leader was Peter Cropper, who outlined the group’s performing philosophy: ‘We did it because we loved it, and I think it came across. I don’t say it was always immaculate. Who wants perfection?’
Where previous benchmark recordings by native ensembles had majored on the spirit more than the letter of the score, however, the Lindsays’ attention to detail in this ASV cycle raised the curtain on a new era of interpretation for works that have evolved to reflect the zeitgeist as well as the troubled mind of their creator. As Sir Michael Tippett remarked: ‘The Lindsays are indeed the best friend a composer could have’.
Immaculate control in the compressed drama of the Third and violent eruptions of the Fourth hardly precludes a fine sense of the desolation in the finale of the Second and the heart-breaking resignation in the final pages of the Sixth. The full timbral palette of Bartók’s pizzicato-glissando effects, magical harmonies and muted sonorities is eloquently and elegantly captured in what was then innovative technology.
BÉLA BARTÓK (1881–1945)
String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Sz. 40
String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Sz. 67
String Quartet No. 3 in C sharp major, Sz. 85
String Quartet No. 4 in C major, Sz. 91
String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, Sz. 102
String Quartet No. 6 in D major, Sz. 114
LINDSAY STRING QUARTET
Peter Cropper, violin I
Ronald Birks, violin II
Roger Bigley, viola
Bernard Gregor-Smith, cello
Recording Producer: Mark Brown
Balance Engineer: Tony Faulkner
Recording Location: Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, London, UK, 1981
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
“Searching, powerful and expressive” Penguin Guide
“The Quartet have a fine unanimity and are equally good in the anguished melodic lines and tense harmony of the slower movements and the biting rhythm and drive of quicker ones.” Gramophone, March 1989
“These players have their own kind of distinction in this music and should not be missed.” Gramophone, December 1989
“Musically and sonically illuminating to the highest degree and easily ranks among the most distinguished Bartók quartet cycles currently available … worth the price for anyone who wants fine interpretations of the Bartók quartets in state-of-the-art sound.” Stereo Review, September 1982