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8.550396 - HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 74, Nos. 1- 3
Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Apponyi Quartets Nos. 4 - 6 (Op. 74, Nos. 1 -3)
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, who was succeeded, on his death in 1762, by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and sometimes obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, in the Hungarian plains, under Prince Nikolaus, 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.
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 so-called Apponyi Quartets were written in 1793 and dedicated to a nobleman, Count Anton Georg Apponyi, who was a member of the circle dominated by Baron van Swieten, the Gesellschaft der Associirten, which fostered interest in the music of J. S. Bach and Handel. It was Apponyi who in 1795 invited Beethoven to try his hand at a string quartet, an attempt that had to wait a few years.
The string quartet was traditionally, in Vienna, a private form of music, not designed for the concert hall, where such buildings existed, During Haydn's first visit to London, however, his Opus 64 quartets had been performed at the concerts organised for him by Salomon. As Robbins Landon has pointed out in his magisterial work on the composer, the Apponyi Quartets were Intended for public concert performance, and. are, therefore, markedly different in character from other quartets by Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven. They were performed at the concerts in the Hanover Square, it seems, during the 1794 London season by Salomon, with two members of the Dutch Dahmen family playing second violin and cello and the Italian Federigo Fiorillo playing viola.
The fourth Apponyi Quartet, Opus 74 No.1 in C major, is introduced by two chords, followed at once by the chromatic principal theme. which forms the basis of a monothematic movement. The gentle lilt of the G major slow movement, leads to a Minuet and Trio that recall in thematic outline the first movement and then to a brilliant final movement with a subtle admixture of counterpoint and a clear debt to earlier themes.
The Quartet in F major, Opus 74 No.2, has an emphatic and unanimous introduction from all four instruments, before the related principal theme is announced by the first violin. The viola leads the way to what nearly seems a contrasted second subject, but is in fact a counterpoint to the principal melody, to be developed in a relatively extended central section. The slow movement is a set of variations in B flat, followed by a scherzo of a Minuet and a Trio in the unexpected key of D flat. The quartet ends with a movement of considerable melodic invention and harmonic contrast in which the first violin is given full scope for virtuosity.
The last of the Apponyi Quartets, Opus 74 No.3 in G minor, is popularly known as The Rider or The Horseman, for reasons immediately apparent. The unanimous opening is followed by a pause, after which the instruments return in imitation, one by one, with the first subject proper, to which a lilting second subject later offers a contrast. The heart of the quartet is the E major slow movement, with its own central E minor section. The Minuet and Trio are followed by a final movement of dynamic contrast and variety, leading to a G major conclusion.
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