About this Recording
8.550399 - HAYDN, F.J.: String Quartets Nos. 5-8, Op. 1, Nos. 0 and 6, and Op. 2, Nos. 1 and 2 (Kodaly Quartet)
English 

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 1, No. "0"
String Quartet in C Major, Op. 1, No.6
String Quartet in A Major, Op. 2, No.1
String Quartet in E Major, Op. 2, No.2

Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.

On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, in the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.

On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterházy family, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.

Haydn lived during the period of the 18th century that saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite form, the basis of much instrumental composition. The string quartet itself, which came to represent classical music in its purest form, grew from a genre that was relatively insignificant, at least in its nomenclature, the Divertimento, into music of greater weight, substance and complexity, although Haydn, like any great master, knew well how to conceal the technical means by which he achieved his ends. The exact number of string quartets that Haydn wrote is not known, although he listed some 83. The earlier of these, often under the title Divertimento, proclaim their origin and purpose. The last quartet, Opus 103, started in 1803, remained unfinished.

In later life Haydn claimed to have discovered the string quartet form by accident. The six quartets later published by Haydn's pupil Pleyel as Opus 1 were certainly among the first he wrote in this form, the first four of them issued in Paris by M. de la Chevardiere in 1764. The Quartet in E flat major, curiously numbered Op. 1, No.0, was not included in Pleyel's collection, which followed de la Chevardiere, but was published in Paris by Huberty in 1764, described there as Simphonia a piu Stromenti obligati, and in a slightly altered form in Amsterdam by the publisher J. J. Hummel. Some of the quartets of Opus 2 were also first issued in Paris by de la Chevardiere, but the six compositions of Opus 2 were collected by Hummel in Amsterdam, two of them apparently his own adaptation of works for two horns and strings, conceived by the composer as sextets.

All the present quartets follow the five movement form of the Divertimento, their minuets framing a central slow movement. It is probable that the E flat Quartet, Op. 1, No.0, and the Quartet in C major, Op. 1, No.6, were written during Haydn's association with Baron Carl Joseph von Fürnberg at the castle of Weinzierl, where he played quartets with the parish priest, the estate manager and one of the Albrechtsberger brothers. This association seems to have started in 1757 and came to an end in 1759 with his appointment to the musical establishment of Count von Morzin. The first movements of these quartets are much simpler and shorter than those of later works in the form. The two minuets frame contrasting trios, with a pleasingly ornamented slow movement at the heart of each work, and a charming and rapid final movement.

Opus 2, as first published, included works in different forms, one of them certainly not by Haydn. The authentic quartets of Opus 2 are Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6. The first of these, in the key of A major, was written in the early 1760s. A slightly more elaborate first movement leads to a minuet with an A minor trio, an ornamented D major slow movement, a second minuet, with a light-hearted trio, and an energetic final movement. Opus 2, No.2, again written between 1760 and 1762, is in E major. It has a first movement in embryonic sonata-form and a first minuet framing a contrasted E minor trio. The Adagio has first violin figuration of some elaboration, closely matched with that of the second violin, while the second minuet and trio follow the key pattern of the first. The quartet ends with a cheerful Presto that has its own brief surprises.

Kodály Quartet
The members of the Kodály Quartet were trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second violin Támas Szabo, viola-player Gábor Fias and cellist János Devich, were formerly in the Sebestyén Quartet, which was awarded the jury's special diploma at the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competition and won first prize at the 1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest. Since 1970, with the violinist Attila Falvay, the quartet has been known as the Kodály Quartet, a title adopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education. The Kodály Quartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in the Soviet Union and in Japan, in addition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concert hall and on television and has made for Naxos highly acclaimed recordings of string quartets by Ravel, Debussy, Mozart and Haydn.


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