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List: Great Haydn Quartets. Keller
Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

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

String Quartet in G major, Op. 33, "Russian", No. 5, Hob.III:41, "How do you do?"

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
7:53 I. Vivace assai
5:01 II. Largo e cantabile
2:57 III. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
5:22 IV. Finale. Allegretto
Duration: 21 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.
4 recordings, 13 videos
autoopen autoplay
9:48
Schneider Quartet
I. Vivace assai
5:59
Schneider Quartet
II. Largo e cantabile
3:03
Schneider Quartet
III. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
6:13
Schneider Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegretto
9:21
Coull Quartet
I. Vivace assai
4:26
Coull Quartet
II. Largo e cantabile
2:56
Coull Quartet
III. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:57
Coull Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegretto
6:17
Borodin Quartet
I. Vivace assai
4:40
Borodin Quartet
II. Largo e cantabile
3:05
Borodin Quartet
III. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4:56
Borodin Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegretto
16:23
Apponyi Quartet
From Kai Christiansen

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

String Quartet in G Major, Op. 33, No. 5, "How do you Do?", 1781

In 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.

The quartet starts with a little fragmentary motif, a tiny final cadence that feels more like a conclusion than a beginning. The whimsical surprise has given the quartet its nickname with words that mimic the motif, "how do you do?" The gesture appears twice more: to announce the recapitulation and, in extended form, where it serves its ultimate purpose as a coda with the final resolution it suggested from the very start. In between, Haydn writes a lively sonata-form movement with two clear themes, the intensification of development and a recapitulation full of just as much extended development.

With three of the movements in a lively, upbeat mood, the second movement stands alone, almost severe with its dark, melancholy cast. It is a spacious and delicate aria for first violin with subdued accompaniment by the three remaining players. Haydn ends this doleful song with a stark cadence, all harmony blanched from the melody played in forceful unison.

The third-movement scherzo is just that: a true scherzo in a fast tempo driving the erstwhile minuet towards the rhythmic muscularity of a modern scherzo in the fashion of Beethoven. A preponderance of upbeats keeps the scherzo skipping forward setting up a lovely contrast for the sweet poise of the trio. Haydn finishes the quartet with a gently loping theme and variations where a winning tune provides a vehicle for the ensemble to "jam" in a series of charming permutations. The last variation changes from Allegretto to Presto for a kind of slingshot of final energy to "bring it all home."

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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