This British string quartet, founded at the Royal Academy of Music in London, has gained a worldwide reputation for its rare intensity, an intensity matching or surpassing that of any other contemporary quartet. While this fiery approach has occasionally led the ensemble into patches of questionable intonation, its often-breathtaking realization of thrice-familiar scores has endeared it to audiences seeking something more than polite re-creation. Aside from traditional repertory, the quartet has demonstrated a fervent involvement with the music of its own day, having gained a special identification with the quartets of Sir Michael Tippett, one of which it commissioned. A long-term and imaginative relationship with ASV Records has assured the group's continuing strong presence internationally.
The Lindsays, as they are often called, came together in 1966 under the supervision and mentoring ear of Sidney Griller. The original complement consisted of Peter Cropper, Michael Adamson, Roger Bigley, and Bernard Gregor-Smith. After having captured every available Royal Academy of Music award for quartet performance, the quartet was awarded a Leverhulme scholarship to Keele University. There, working with former Hungarian Quartet member Alexandre Moskowsky, the group assumed the name of university founder Lord Lindsay. The quartet members studied the music of the Classical and post-Classical periods with members of the Amadeus Quartet and explored the ensemble music of Bartók with Sándor Végh and Vilmos Tatrai, among others.
The quartet was a prizewinner in the Liege Competition in 1969, gaining an important measure of international recognition. Three years later, Michael Adamson was replaced by Ronald Birks as second violinist. In 1972, the Lindsays were offered a residency at Sheffield University. Another residency followed at Manchester University in 1979. The first of several tours of the United States and Canada was undertaken in 1981, further enhancing the quartet's reputation. In 1984, the Lindsay Quartet initiated a series of annual festivals at Sheffield University; three years later, they began performing some of these programs in London.
Another change of personnel occurred in 1986 when Bigley left and was replaced by Robin Ireland. Following that, the quartet advanced in balancing the homogeneity needed in small ensemble while giving heed, even celebrating, the uniqueness of each individual player. This reconciling of elements, which might seem to be in opposition, has given the Lindsays much of their collective tang.
The Lindsay Quartet's performances of the Beethoven quartets, the late ones particularly, have represented for many a benchmark by which to measure other contemporary ensembles. The quartet's public performances and recordings of works by Dvorák and Bartók have likewise been hailed as exemplary. For Mozart's quintets, the ensemble has been joined by Patrick Ireland, father of Robin Ireland. Tippett's quartets have been a central part of the Lindsay repertory, the Quartet No. 5 having been commissioned by them.
Few artists or ensembles have ever enjoyed the closely collaborative relationship with a recording company that marks the Lindsay Quartet's association with ASV. With that company, the quartet has been able to commit to disc those interpretations attaining full ripeness, thus preserving, in nearly every instance, a performance that adds illumination to an important score. This legacy has grown to be one of the most important in the annals of recorded chamber music.