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. 76, Erdödy, No. 1, Hob.III:75

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
6:34 I. Allegro con spirito
6:55 II. Adagio sostenuto
2:36 III. Menuet. Presto
6:07 IV. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
Duration: 20 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1797 (age 64-65)
Published: 1800 (age 67-68)
Dedication: Count Joseph Georg von Erdődy
8 recordings, 20 videos
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5:34
Tokyo String Qaurtet
I. Allegro con spirito
6:33
Tokyo String Qaurtet
II. Adagio sostenuto
2:17
Tokyo String Qaurtet
III. Menuet. Presto
5:47
Tokyo String Qaurtet
IV. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
9:01
Quatuor Mosaïques
I. Allegro con spirito
6:36
Quatuor Mosaïques
II. Adagio sostenuto
2:53
Quatuor Mosaïques
III. Menuet. Presto
6:24
Quatuor Mosaïques
IV. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
20:04
Tokyo String Qaurtet (complete)
23:56
Kuijken Quartet
5:56
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
I. Allegro con spirito
7:13
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
II. Adagio sostenuto
2:39
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
III. Menuet. Presto
5:58
Giovane Quartetto Italiano
IV. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
18:13
Budapest Quartet (complete)
6:00
Attacca Quartet
I. Allegro con spirito
6:00
Attacca Quartet
II. Adagio sostenuto
2:32
Attacca Quartet
III. Menuet. Presto
7:29
Attacca Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
38:51
Alban Berg Quartet
From Kai Christiansen

Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809

String Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No. 1, 1797

The six quartets of Op. 76 are frequently and justly described as Haydn's greatest works in the genre. They reflect over 40 years of experience with quartet writing that always placed Haydn at the vanguard of tradition, upset only briefly by Mozart with the six quartets he dedicated to Haydn. By 1797, when Haydn received a commission from the music and quartet loving Hungarian aristocrat Count Joseph Erdödy, Mozart was dead, and his quartet innovations had been reabsorbed by Haydn. Beethoven's initial foray in quartet writing would begin one year later, close, but as yet, unknown to anyone. At the age of 64, Haydn had just returned from his second "tour" of England where he was fêted as the greatest living European composer. Now in rather luxurious retirement from his decades-long employment with the Esterhazy family (yet more Hungarian nobility), Haydn composed with his finest skill, his most daring self-assuredness, his undiminished capacity for innovation and, in the words of a contemporary, his still unquenched fire. Here, at the zenith of his soon finished career, Haydn stands alone, supremely independent. Perhaps catalyzed by his London sojourn, this final set of six quartets project Haydn's most powerful quartet music with introductory flair, bold quasi-orchestral textures, more amplified drama and the true arrival of the furious, muscular scherzo. One might regard Op. 76 as the arrival of the string quartet for professional performance.

Op. 76, No. 1 inaugurates the occasion with three bold tutti chords, a truly orchestral call to attention. Immediately, the texture shifts to intricate counterpoint with the predominant theme stated first by solo cello, joined by viola and ending, in reverse, with the first fiddle. Although there is what might be termed a bridge and a second theme, this initial bit of canonic imitation saturates the first movement sonata further elaborated by a faster moving countersubject that picks up in the development section and lasts through the end of the recapitulation. The elegant polyphonic brocade throughout the first movement reiterates the essential contrapuntal genius of the string quartet and reminds us that passages of Haydn's music were not so far removed from the Baroque era reaching its own zenith in Haydn's youth. Yet the distinction with the classical style is contrast, drama and wit all within a single movement where the contrapuntal is blended with the homophonic and the punctuation of galant flourishes as textures and moods rapidly come and go in a new kind of romantic fantasia.

Many have called the second slow movement that focal point of the quartet. It begins as a lovely, touching hymn in perfect chorale homophony. As the texture shifts into more intimate territory with a poignant, even melancholy duet for cello and first violin, the hymn becomes the implied ritornello for an operatic scene of great emotional affect. Delicate lyricism waxes into impassioned plea, with nuance, virtuosity and dramatic silences articulating a vivid, yet purely musical narrative. Further along a continuum more than a stylistic "development", Haydn explores a new intensity in these last, fully ripe quartets.

The surging presto Minuet is, by all but its name, a "modern" Scherzo with a verve and huskiness that would soon become Beethoven's signature. Initially light and nimble, the first staccato phrase explodes with a loud dramatic contrast. The second phrase darkens in tonality and throbs with the syncopated offbeat echoes from the cello, a fade out, and a final explosion. The greatest contrast of the quartet comes in the trio as the visceral scherzo evaporates into the effervescent trio, where a lithe first fiddle dances a delightful Austrian ländler to the pizzicato accompaniment of her admiring confreres.

In a fresh tendency through the Op. 76 quartets, the finale resumes the heady intricacies of the opening movement with another sonata form movement, this time more novel and daring. In dramatic opposition to the ruling key of G major, the last movement begins ominously in G minor, the full quartet in bold tutti yet again. While the exposition characteristically makes its way to the major mode with great triumph, much of the music throughout flickers between major and minor, light and dark, with an unsettling ambiguity that would be greatly exploited by Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn in years hence. Nonetheless, Haydn is not so mordant as to leave us there. The quartet ultimately ends in G major with a last minute surprise of fresh thematic material unquestionably recalling the effervescent mirth of the trio, a nearly Mozartian laugh before final happy flourish in the "right" key.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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