Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Nationality: Austrian
Born: March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria Died: May 31, 1809, Vienna (age 77)

String Quartet in D major, Op. 76, "Erdödy", No. 5, Hob.III:79, "Largo"

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
4:57 I. Allegretto - Allegro
7:19 II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
3:04 III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
3:47 IV. Finale. Presto
Duration: 20 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1796-1797 (age 63-65)
Published: 1800 (age 67-68)
11 recordings, 30 videos
autoplay
4:51
Tokyo String Quartet
I. Allegretto - Allegro
8:31
Tokyo String Quartet
II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
3:08
Tokyo String Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
3:43
Tokyo String Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
5:19
Amadeus String Quartet
I. Allegretto - Allegro
6:55
Amadeus String Quartet
II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
3:00
Amadeus String Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
3:38
Amadeus String Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
4:52
Panocha Quartet
I. Allegretto - Allegro
6:24
Panocha Quartet
II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
3:05
Panocha Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
3:35
Panocha Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
4:36
Ysaye String Quartet
I. Allegretto - Allegro
7:23
Ysaye String Quartet
II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
2:43
Ysaye String Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
3:33
Ysaye String Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
20:11
Tokyo String Qaurtet (complete)
21:47
Linden String Quartet
17:17
Kuijken Quartet
13:46
Hungarian Quartet
(part 1 of 2)
6:37
Hungarian Quartet
(part 2 of 2)
4:48
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
I. Allegretto - Allegro
7:46
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
3:16
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
4:00
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
IV. Finale. Presto
5:08
Dahlkvist String Quartet
I. Allegretto - Allegro
7:25
Dahlkvist String Quartet
II. Largo. Cantabile e mesto
3:25
Dahlkvist String Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegro ma non troppo - Trio
4:19
Dahlkvist String Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
38:51
Alban Berg Quartet
From Kai Christiansen

Charles Burney “ . . . they are full of invention, fire, good taste, and new effects, and seem the production, not of a sublime genius who has written so much and so well already, but of one of highly-cultivated talents, who had expended none of his fire before.”

Charles Burney in a letter to Haydn regarding Op. 76

Haydn's string quartet legacy comprises 68 works written over the span of nearly fifty years and includes at least twenty-five unequivocal masterpieces. They were generally published in groups of six (or three) of which there are several landmark sets, each with its own personality, ingenuity and style. Each set tends to reflect a particular phase of Haydn's ever-creative quartet thinking and, rather miraculously, forms a complete universe in itself, so rich and varied are the musical treasures within. If one were forced to pick the so-called "desert island" opus, the likely candidate might be Op. 76, the last complete set of quartets Haydn wrote between 1796 and 1797 when he was 65 years old. They were published in 1800, the very year a young Beethoven finished his own first set. At the time, Haydn was essentially retired from service to the Esterhazy family, "world" famous after his two fabulously successful tours to England, materially well-off and still in full command of his art. The quartets of Op. 76 were composed for high caliber ensemble in public performance before a sizeable, rapt audience. These were big extroverted works of great virtuosity commissioned by a nobleman connoisseur for a handsome sum. They represent an unequivocal and dazzling peak in Haydn's career as well as a touchstone for all future quartet composers.

The fifth quartet in D Major begins with a surprise: rather than a dramatic introduction or a terse theme pregnant with a motive ripe for development, Haydn begins with moderately-paced lyrical “song” in a text-book two-part form initially sounding more like a slow movement placed first. Extremely unusual for Haydn’s string quartets, this one begins not with a “sonata-allegro” first movement but what turns out to be a loose and fanciful theme and variations. The little song becomes the vehicle for some of the finest quartet writing to date with elegant polyphony, classical panache and a kind of accelerating energy finishing in a scintillating froth like champagne, an exemplar of the high Viennese style.

Dedicated to that patron that commissioned Op. 76, Hungarian nobleman Count Joseph Georg von Erdődy, the quartets are sometimes known as Haydn’s “Erdődy” quartets and most of the individual quartets themselves have nicknames (e.g. “Fifths”, “Sunrise”, “Emperor”). This quartet is associated with the nickname “Largo” after the particularly affective slow movement. Placed second following the well-established standard essentially after Haydn’s own examples, it amply lives up to the tempo and character directions in its title “Largo. Cantabile e mesto.” What might initially seem like a contradiction, “singing and melancholy” is perfectly and poignantly reflected in music that sings heartfelt and hymn-like in a major key but then darkens into a minor key by turns of phrase in a musical chiaroscuro. “Simple” yet profound, it is surely one of Haydn’s greatest creations and it follows that the quartet’s nickname would highlight this movement.

A short third-movement minuet and trio follows. The minuet marked as allegro with the qualifier “not too much” seems consistent with the first two movements in sustaining a kind of elegant gentility, perhaps yet another meaning to the nickname “Largo”, but as the slow movement darkens from cantabile to mesto, so the minuet gives way to a slightly sinister trio featuring a rumbling wave in the cello and a surprisingly complex texture made from a diversity of independent figurations. The “da capo” return dispels the shadows again. Any sense of moderation, “Largo”, or genteel restraint is immediately obliterated by the hightailed hijinks of the finale, a relatively brief but action packed romp that is a unique and freewheeling design somewhere between a condensed sonata and a rondo. A crisp two-chord cadential flourish repeatedly seems to shout “charge” as the violin and cello take off in a dashing call and response racing up and down scales, around cadences and leaping with surprising modulations in a breathless chase that even mimics hunting horns. As he proved over and over again, Haydn knew how to write an ending.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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Baptized: September 14, 1737, Rohrau Died: August 10, 1806, Salzburg (age 68)
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Peter Hänsel (1770-1831)
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