Sad news about the death of Peter Cropper, inspirational first violinist of the Lindsay Quartet.
I didn’t know Peter so well myself, but always felt connected to the Lindsays because the original viola player of my group Domus, Robin Ireland, moved to become the viola player of the Lindsays. We were always hearing tales of the quartet’s activities. With my chamber companions I often played in the Lindsays’ festival in the Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. It was always a pleasure to see the degree of loyalty which Peter and the quartet had built up in their Sheffield audience, some of whom followed the quartet about on its travels. I remember talking to some folk who didn’t have much money, but had acquired a tent and researched ways of camping as near as possible to where The Lindsays were going to be performing. I began to recognise the fanatical shine in the eyes of the true Lindsay Quartet believer.
It was easy to see why Peter inspired such devotion. He was passionate about quartets and chamber playing in general, and spoke eloquently about the music to the audience before playing it. His own playing was an extraordinary mixture of fire, imagination and strength, with a kind of Beethovenian roughness as part of the mix. I sometimes thought he looked a bit like a German woodcarving of the kind that Beethoven might have had on his mantelpiece.
I remember once when Peter, playing a Beethoven quartet, became so engrossed that he moved further and further to the front of his chair, eventually slipping right off the front and sinking on one knee to the ground without ceasing to play. He righted himself with a smile. Needless to say such all-out commitment to the music made a deep impression on us all.
As one of the London fraternity I always thought it was brave, perhaps foolhardy of Peter to nail his colours to the mast of South Yorkshire and refuse to move to the capital. But when I saw how revered the quartet was in its chosen home territory, I began to understand. Later still I came to think it was exactly the kind of de-centralisation which is increasingly important. London has such an over-supply of good musicians and I think Peter was ahead of his time in seeing that for the health of music-making in the country, there had to be centres of excellence elsewhere. Furthermore, Sheffield was minutes away from glorious countryside, and this was part of its charm for the quartet and its fans.
Peter was a brilliant advocate for chamber music, able to fire up people by his speaking and teaching as well as his playing. Perhaps equally importantly, he was an entrepreneur, tireless in promoting The Lindsays, and later on, energetic in creating opportunities for young players in the North East and teaching them how to promote themselves. Many of us could learn from his example.