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List: Popular Classics
Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

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

String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, "Russian", No. 2, Hob.III:38, "Joke"

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
5:25 I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:31 II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:46 III. Largo sostenuto
3:31 IV. Finale. Presto
Duration: 19 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1781 (age 48-49)
Published: 1782, Vienna: Artaria (age 49-50)
Note: The Op. 33 quartets are also known by the nickname "Gli Scherzi" after the new lighter, quicker "scherzo" vs. the older minuet.
10 recordings, 34 videos
autoplay
7:12
Coull Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:26
Coull Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
5:04
Coull Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:20
Coull Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
4:51
Kodály Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:45
Kodály Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:41
Kodály Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:44
Kodály Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
4:59
Emerson String Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:23
Emerson String Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:31
Emerson String Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:34
Emerson String Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
4:54
Buchberger Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:12
Buchberger Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:10
Buchberger Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:13
Buchberger Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
6:04
Schneider Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:49
Schneider Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
5:21
Schneider Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:53
Schneider Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
18:13
Janáček String Quartet
5:06
Endellion String Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:26
Endellion String Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:37
Endellion String Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:20
Endellion String Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
8:40
D'Amici Quartet
(part 1 of 2)
8:39
D'Amici Quartet
(part 2 of 2)
5:05
Borodin Quartet
I. Allegro moderato cantabile
3:23
Borodin Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
5:04
Borodin Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:19
Borodin Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
3:26
Attacca Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
5:06
Attacca Quartet
III. Largo sostenuto
3:51
Attacca Quartet
IV. Finale. Presto
From Kai Christiansen

Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809

String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2, "Joke", 1781

Joseph HaydnIn 1781, after a lapse of ten years, a 49-year-old Joseph Haydn turned to the string quartet again, composing a set of six that were published the following year as Op. 33. The publication bore a dedication to the "Grand Duke of Russia" and so these quartets are most commonly known as the "Russian" quartets. The alternate nickname, Gli Scherzi (The Jokes), refers to the fact that Haydn replaced the traditional title "Minuet" with the Italian word "Scherzo," meaning joke or playfulness. Whether these dance movements were any different than their predecessors is difficult to determine, but the birth of a new movement genre is undeniable, as history would prove. The nickname is apt here because with Op. 33, Haydn did recast the essential character of the string quartet by making it somewhat more lighthearted. Yet he also made it more sophisticated in terms of musical construction resulting in cleverness and, in several places, literal musical jokes based on confounding the expectations of common music forms and devices. In this respect the quartets are a great historical watershed. Haydn himself advertised his quartets in private subscription letters as having been written in a "new and special way." An impressionable Mozart heard these quartets in 1781. Astonished, Mozart responded by writing his own set of six masterworks that he lovingly dedicated to Haydn.

Perhaps most famous of the set is second quartet in E-flat, itself known as the "Joke" quartet. It begins with a movement in sonata form, moderate, singing, and simple. A closer look reveals that the first five bars contain all the musical materials of the movement, both the theme, its constituent and omnipresent musical motives, and thereby, the source of conflict that generates the articulated sonata form. The first three notes of the quartet establish a lilting motive that, during a stormy development, assumes a menacing character that recasts the main theme in a minor key as the most dramatic point before the recapitulation. The elegant elaborations of the opening material at the end demonstrate that Haydn's music is always developing regardless of where in the "form" he is supposed to be.

The "Scherzo" comes next. Haydn would continuously shift the triple-meter dance movement between second and third slot in his sonatas. There really is no rule. On the surface, this is easy going, smiling music. But Haydn invests both scherzo and trio with perfectly shaped dramatic forms – constant development – and at least one of the musical jokes of the set must be the sliding theme of the nearly giddy trio set against the more heavy-footed folk dance of the scherzo. This is a dash of musical "insouciance" we normally associate with Mozart.

The third, slow movement is one of the innumerable beautiful songs Haydn composed throughout his oeuvre. A lovely, pastorale kind of melody in hunting horn intervals softly calls out from the mellow pair of viola and cello. The treble twins call back and so a dialog ensues. A dramatic interruption of 'Sturm und drang' banishes any sense of jocularity with a stabbing emotional darkness. But the mellifluous pastorale will prevail through two more restatements, each time made more sweet and elegant by a growing filigree of counterpoint. Somewhat of a rondo as well as a theme and variations, this is yet another Haydn movement genre that would rise to great achievements in the hands of Mozart and, especially, Beethoven.

The finale is definitely a crisply articulated rondo, loping with characteristic mirth in the rather magical meter of 6/8, the establishment of yet another precedent. A rondo features an easily recognizable refrain that recurs with intervening episodes of contrast, departure or development. By assigning letters to the sections, one can perfectly describe Haydn's finale as: "AbAcA." Almost. The inevitable musical expectations give Haydn an opportunity for true musical play, the humor of confounding an established rhetoric as the true mark of cultural sophistication. But one of many instances of musical humor in the quartet, this is the one that gave rise to the quartets nickname, the "Joke."

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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