FIRST NIGHT; Tippett Quartets/The Lindsays
Hadfield, Duncan, The Independent (London, England)
When the string quartet's legacy in the 20th century is finally assessed, a handful of the genre's exponents will be tossed into the pot. The four quartets of Schoenberg and the six quartets of Bartok undoubtedly stand out, as do the five composed over a period of more than half a century by the late Sir Michael Tippett. Tippett completed the third of his quartets in 1946. There then followed a huge gap while he concentrated on operatic and concert works, after which he returned, in the 1970s, with the dazzling 4th quartet. The Lindsays gave the world premiere, and commissioned a very different, yet no less transcendental 5th. Working closely alongside Tippett, the foursome forged a fruitful partnership.
To mark the collaboration, the Lindsays this week perform all five quartets in two concerts in London's Wigmore Hall, although the two recitals are not in memoriam events. "They're intended as an on-going celebration of the vitality of Tippett's contribution to the string quartet," says first violinist Peter Cropper.
How vital? "Exceptionally so," says Cropper. "It's frequently been remarked that any composer who couldn't play a stringed instrument could never pen a great quartet. Well, Tippett immediately disproves that theory five times over. Much of the sheer dynamic appeal of these pieces revolves around their pioneering qualities. …