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8.550732 - HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 42 and Op. 2, Nos 4 and 6
Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
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, on the site of a former hunting-lodge on 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.
It has been suggested that Haydn's D minor Quartet, Opus 42, was written in response to a commission from Spain, mentioned in a letter of 5th April 1784. Certainly quartets had been requested by the Countess-Duchess of Benavente and Osuna and by the Duke of Alba and Haydn apparently sent two string quartets to the agent of the Countess, The poet Tomas de Yriarte, as part of a larger number of works for which he had a contract. The only quartet that survives from the period in question, late 1784 and early 1785, is Opus 42, which is in four movements rather than the three implied in Haydn's letter, but is relatively short and straightforward. The first movement is a charming Andante, followed by a D major Minuet that takes the violin into a high register and is coupled with a D minor Trio. There is a slow movement in B flat major and the last movement is a fugato, opened by the second violin.
The works later grouped together as Opus 2 were originally issued by Louis-Balthasar de la Chevardière in Paris as Six Sinfonies ou Quatuors dialogues, which included only three string quartets, Opus 2, Nos. 4, 1 and 2. The set of six quartets later collected by Hummet as Opus 2 included Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6 and two works printed by de la Chevardière and originally scored also for French horns. The first of Haydn's string quartets seem to have been written for a nobleman, Carl Joseph von Fürnberg, whose country seat was at Weinzierl Castle, near Weiselburg, the works to be played by von Fürnberg's estates manager, the parish priest, Haydn and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. It seems that the string quartets now included in Opus 1 and four of those in Opus 2 were intended for von Fürnberg. Opus 2 Nos. 4 and 6 were probably written at sometime in 1759, 1760 or the following year. They are in the manner of cassations or divertimenti, each of them in five movements, with two Minuets and lack the subtle complexity of Haydn's mature quartets.
The Quartet Opus 2, No.4, opens with a fast movement in 6/8 metre and is followed by a Minuet with a B flat major Trio. The F minor slow movement is followed by a second Minuet, with a B flat Trio, and a final cheerful Allegro. Quartet No.6, in B flat major, starts with an Adagio theme with four variations. The first of the two Minuets is contrasted with an E flat major Trio that introduces triplet figuration. The E flat slow movement, with a central section in A flat, leads to the second Minuet with its Trio and a brisk final movement.
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