About this Recording
8.550398 - HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 1, Nos. 1- 4

Joseph Haydn (1732- 1809)
String Quartet in B Flat Major, Op.1, No.1, Hob. III: 1
String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op.1, No.2, Hob. III: 2
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 1, No.3, Hob. III: 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, succeeded after his death in 1762 by 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 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, 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 collected together by Haydn's pupil Pleyel as Opus 1 were certainly among the first he himself wrote in this form. The first three are in the customary five-movement form of the divertimento, a title the composer later preferred to the earlier title cassation. It is thought that Opus 1, No.1, was written with other early quartet-divertimenti in 1757 and 1758, and the other two in the following years, between 1759 and 1761. The first quartet, consequently, seems to have been written for Baron Carl Joseph von Fürnberg, at the castle of Weinzierl in Lower Austria. The baron invited the parish priest, his estate manager, Haydn and Albrechtsberger, presumably Johann Georg, who was Beethoven's later counterpoint teacher, to play together. In 1759 he took a salaried position as music director to Count von Morzin, spending winter in Vienna and summer in Bohemia at the count's castle at Lukavec, where there was a larger musical establishment. The first four quartets of what was later known as Opus 1 appeared in Paris in 1764 with other works, described as Six Simphonies ou Quatuors Dialogués.

The first quartet of Opus 1, the Quartet in B flat major, opens with an ascending arpeggio figure The first of the two Minuets, with its contrasted E flat major Trio, leads to an E flat slow movement that allows the first violin a chance to tackle a relatively florid melodic line. There is a second Minuet and Trio before the brief tripartite classical finale.

The second quartet, Opus 1, No 2, in E flat major, follows a similar form, the concise opening section of the first movement leading again to a central development section The first Minuet frames a B flat major Trio and is succeeded by a B flat slow movement in threefold form There is a second Minuet and Trio and a sprightly concluding movement.

The third quartet of Opus 1, in the key of D major, starts with a slow movement The first Minuet has a contrasting G major Trio and leads to a rapid D major third movement that contains excursions into A and D minor before the original key is restored A second Minuet, with a D minor Trio, is capped by a lively final movement.

Kodály Quartet The members of the Kodály Quartet were trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second violin Tamás Szabo, viola player Gábor Fias and cellist J8nos 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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