Haydn: String Quartets, Opp. 42, 77 & 103

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: ASV Gold
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn
WORKS: String Quartets, Opp. 42, 77 & 103
PERFORMER: The Lindsays
CATALOGUE NO: GLD 4010
This disc, appearing nearly a year after the Lindsays disbanded, completes their survey of Haydn’s string quartets from Op. 20 onwards. In addition to the small-scale but deeply felt D minor Quartet, Op. 42 it contains Haydn’s final two-and-a-half quartets. The half is accounted for by the torso published as Op. 103 – the middle movements of a quartet in D minor which marked the end of Haydn’s career. Following the minuet, Haydn had his visiting-card printed: an extract from his part-song Der Greis (the old man), setting the words ‘Gone is all my strength; old and weak am I’. Not that there’s any sign of weakness in the two movements Haydn did manage to compose – indeed, the minuet is among the most dramatic and intense he ever wrote, and the Lindsays play it on this recording in appropriately forceful style.

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These are altogether fine performances, with all the Lindsays’ characteristic warmth and affection. In the G major Quartet, Op. 77 No. 1, I actually prefer them to the Alban Berg Quartet (EMI) whose finale is altogether too laid-back. Honours are more equally divided in the F major second quartet of the pair, but it’s worth seeking out the now deleted recording of these two works plus Op. 103 by the original Takács Quartet. The Hungarian ensemble plumb greater depths in the Op. 77 Adagio, and their finales have more energy than even the Lindsays convey. But until that Decca disc resurfaces, this new recording will do very nicely indeed. Misha Donat