The Lindsays are an establishment in the world of the string quartet, and their interpretations of Beethoven in particular are compelling, almost mesmerising. Volume nine of their second Beethoven cycle looks at two of the late quartets, the pinnacle of the master’s chamber music. The fourteenth, op.131, falls into the difficult key of C# minor, not easy for a string quartet to keep in tune, but the Lindsays manage it with hardly a falter.
The solemn, almost funereal fugue that opens the work is given gradually more and more projection as it nears the end, the notes occasionally over-pointed but the impact considerable. The light touch of the second movement dispels the heaviness of the opening, and the Lindsays move on to a serene interpretation of the long variations movement, almost as long as some Haydn quartets. The zippy Presto is a chance for the quartet to really go hell for leather, and the grim determination of the finale, a march-like call to arms, brings us full circle back to C# minor. It caps an outstanding performance of concentration, worth the price of the disc alone, but there’s more.
The last quartet has always been something of an enigma in the way it hints at Haydn-esque tendencies but could be by no other composer than Beethoven. In particular the Lindsays find a hushed calm in the slower music, really moving the listener to give it full attention, and although my familiarity with this quartet wasn’t so great I’ll be looking to put that right with this recording, especially given the energy of the scherzo and the hymn-like third movement.
This is a fitting culmination to a second cycle that has even eclipsed its predecessor, and ensures that if there’s ever a string quartet hall of fame, the Lindsays will be among the first in.