About this Recording
8.550673 - HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 64, Nos. 1- 3

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
String Quartets Op. 64, 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, 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.

The string quartets of Opus 64 constitute a second set of six quartets for the violinist Johann Tost, who had led the second violins of Haydn's orchestra at Esterháza from 1783 until his departure for Paris in 1788, although he was mentioned as Music Director for the Seipp theatre company in Pressburg (the modern Slovak capital of Bratislava) in the previous year. In Paris Tost's sale of Haydn compositions caused some trouble that may be understood in the light of his earlier suggestion for the pirating of music belonging to Prince Esterhály. In 1790 Tost returned to Vienna, where he married a housekeeper in the Esterhály service, prospering thereafter as a cloth-merchant. Nine years later he is heard of again in his suggestion to Spohr that he buy exclusive rights to the latter's chamber music, thus securing for himself entry to the houses of rich patrons, something that would materially assist his business. The arrangement was one to which Spohr assented. Mozart also apparently provided Tost with chamber music, namely his last two string quintets.

The Opus 64 quartets were written in 1790 and announced for sale in the Wiener Zeitung in February 1791, with an English edition appearing in London in June of the same year, after their performance at concerts under the direction of the violinist-impresario Salomon at the Festino Rooms in Hanover Square, when the performers were Salomon himself, the second violinist Hindmarsh, cellist Menel and viola-player the older Damen. The first of the set opens with the principal theme played by the first violin, joined in its repetition by the second. The movement, which moves into triplets, includes examples of bariolage, as the first violin plays the same note on alternating strings. The third section recapitulation contains an unexpected modulation, before returning to the original key of C major in conclusion. The second movement Minuet has a contrasting C minor Trio and is followed by an F major movement marked Allegretto scherzando and dominated by its principal theme, the case also with the lively Finale.

The first violin opens the second quartet, Opus 64, No.2, in an apparent D major, before the third bar establishes the key of B minor in a movement of deep feeling. The second movement Adagio is in B major, its effect enhanced by the accompanying patterns provided by the second violin and cello. The Minuet and Trio in B minor and B major respectively, lead to a lively Finale, with an unexpected ending, as the violins ascend to the heights.

The lively first movement of the third quartet, in B flat major, has a principal subject followed by an insistent repeated rhythm introduced by the cello and at once taken up by the other instruments. The E flat major slow movement has a central section in E flat minor, followed by the return of the opening section In varied form. The repeated Minuet frames a Trio with unusual syncopation and the succeeding Finale again demonstrates the infinite variety of which Haydn is capable, within the restrictions of the established form.

Kodály Quartet
The members of the Kodály Quartet were trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second violinist Tamás Szabó, 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 then 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, Haydn and Schubert.

Close the window