HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 1, Nos. 1- 4 (Ibolya Toth/ Kodaly Quartet) (Naxos: 8.550398)
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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 ofRohrau 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 hecould from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learnfrom the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's firstappointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count vonMorzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one ofthe richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded after hisdeath in 1762 by Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly andsomewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to hisposition, to remain in the same employment for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificentpalace at Esterhaza in the Hungarian plains under Prince Nikolaus, Haydnassumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he hadresponsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included theprovision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, andmusic for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music ofall 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 musicfor the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A secondsuccessful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to dutywith the Esterhazy family, the new head of which had settled principally at thefamily property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of theyear, 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 18thcentury that saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach andHandel to the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite form, the basisof much instrumental composition. The string quartet itself, which came torepresent classical music in its purest form, grew from a genre that wasrelatively insignificant, at least in its nomenclature, the Divertimento, intomusic of greater weight, substance and complexity, although Haydn, like anygreat master, knew well how to conceal the technical means by which he achievedhis 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 titleDivertimento, proclaim their origin and purpose. The last quartet, Opus 103,started in 1803 remained unfinished.
In later life Haydn claimed to havediscovered the string quartet form by accident. The six quartets collectedtogether by Haydn's pupil Pleyel as Opus 1 were certainly among the first hehimself wrote in this form. The first three are in the customary five-movementform of the divertimento, a title the composer later preferred to the earliertitle cassation. It is thought that Opus 1, No.1, was written with other earlyquartet-divertimenti in 1757 and 1758, and the other two in the followingyears, between 1759 and 1761. The first quartet, consequently, seems to have beenwritten for Baron Carl Joseph von F??rnberg, at the castle of Weinzierl in LowerAustria. The baron invited the parish priest, his estate manager, Haydn andAlbrechtsberger, presumably Johann Georg, who was Beethoven's latercounterpoint teacher, to play together. In 1759 he took a salaried position asmusic director to Count von Morzin, spending winter in Vienna and summer inBohemia at the count's castle at Lukavec, where there was a larger musicalestablishment. The first four quartets of what was later known as Opus 1appeared in Paris in 1764 with other works, described as Six Simphonies ouQuatuors Dialogues.
The first quartet of Opus 1, theQuartet in B flat major, opens with an ascendingarpeggio figure The first of the two Minuets, with its contrasted E flat majorTrio, leads to an E flat slow movement that allows the first violin a chance totackle a relatively florid melodic line. There is a second Minuet and Triobefore the brief tripartite classical finale.
The second quartet, Opus 1, No 2, in Eflat major, follows a similar form, the concise opening section of thefirst movement leading again to a central development section The first Minuetframes a B flat major Trio and is succeeded by a B flat slow movement inthreefold form There is a second Minuet and Trio and a sprightly concludingmovement.
The third quartet of Opus 1, in the keyof D major, starts with a slow movement The first Minuet has a contrastingG major Trio and leads to a rapid D major third movement that containsexcursions into A and D minor before the original key is restored A secondMinuet, with a D minor Trio, is capped by a lively final movement.
Kodaly Quartet The members of the KodalyQuartet were trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them,the second violin Tamas Szabo, viola player Gabor Fias and cellist J8nosDevich, were formerly in the Sebestyen Quartet which was awarded the jury'sspecial diploma at the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competition and wonfirst prize at the 1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest Since 1970,with the violinist Attila Falvay, the quartet has been known as the KodalyQuartet a title adopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Cultureand Education The Kodaly Quartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in theSoviet Union and in Japan, in addition to regular appearances in Hungary bothin the concert hall and on television and has made for Naxos highly acclaimedrecordings of String Quartets by Ravel, Debussy Mozart and Haydn.