Beethoven: String Quartet in F, Op. 59/1; String Quartet in C, Op. 59/3 (Razumovsky)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: String Quartet in F, Op. 59/1; String Quartet in C, Op. 59/3 (Razumovsky)
PERFORMER: The Lindsays
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1114
This latest instalment in the Lindsays’ continuing Beethoven cycle comes hard on the heels of the new recording of the three Razumovsky quartets from the Takács Quartet, which I reviewed in these pages last month. The Lindsays may not always match the sheer polish of the Takács players, but on a musical level they are deeply satisfying. Particularly impressive are the mysterious slow introduction to Op. 59/3, in which they sensibly avoid the temptation to place a dramatic accent on the opening discord, allowing it instead to emerge out of nowhere; and the deeply felt account of the tragic slow movement of the F major work. The flowing tempo for the second movement of Op. 59/3 – not a genuine slow movement, but an Allegretto – is a decided asset, too.

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On the debit side, the scurrying fugal finale of the C major Quartet is rather lacking in brilliance and panache when set alongside the Takács – let alone in comparison with such famous virtuoso accounts as those of the Busch and Alban Berg Quartets; and it’s possible to feel that the steady tempo the Lindsays choose for the long opening movement of Op. 59/1 ultimately robs the music of a certain sense of energy and impetus. But these are small points. I have a lingering affection for the Amadeus Quartetwarm-hearted performances of these great works, but anyone wanting to acquire the Beethoven quartets piecemeal, rather than by the expensive boxful, is unlikely to be disappointed by the Lindsays’ thoughtful, musicianly performances. Misha Donat