HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 42 and Op. 2, Nos 4 and 6 (Ibolya Toth/ Kodaly Quartet) (Naxos: 8.550732)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
String Quartet in D Minor, Op. 42, Hob. III: 43
String Quartet in F Major, Op. 2, No.4, Hob. III: 10
String Quartet in B Flat Major, Op. 2, No.6, Hob. 111: 12
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of awheelwright. 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 playingthe violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora,whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 asKapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in theEmpire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by hisbrother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhatobstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, toremain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza, on the site of aformer hunting-lodge on the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumedcommand of an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility forthe musical activities of the palace, which included the provision and directionof instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. Forhis patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularlyfor the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrumentwith sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept aninvitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert seasonorganized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit toLondon in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterhazyfamily, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property inEisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, wasto be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as TheFrench armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
Haydn lived during the period of the 18th century that saw the development ofinstrumental music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the classicalsonata, with its tripartite form, the basis of much instrumental composition.
The string quartet itself, which came to represent classical music in its purestform, grew from a genre that was relatively insignificant, at least in itsnomenclature, the Divertimento, into music of greater weight, substanceand complexity, although Haydn, like any great master, knew well how to concealthe technical means by which he achieved his ends. The exact number of stringquartets that Haydn wrote is not known, although he listed some 83. The earlierof these, often under the title Divertimento, proclaim Their origin andpurpose. The last quartet, Opus 103, started in 1803, remainedunfinished.
It has been suggested that Haydn's D minor Quartet, Opus 42, waswritten in response to a commission from Spain, mentioned in a letter of 5thApril 1784. Certainly quartets had been requested by the Countess-Duchess ofBenavente and Osuna and by the Duke of Alba and Haydn apparently sent two stringquartets to the agent of the Countess, The poet Tomas de Yriarte, as part of alarger number of works for which he had a contract. The only quartet thatsurvives 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, butis relatively short and straightforward. The first movement is a charmingAndante, followed by a D major Minuet that takes the violin into a high registerand is coupled with a D minor Trio. There is a slow movement in B flat major andthe last movement is a fugato, opened by the second violin.
The works later grouped together as Opus 2 were originally issued byLouis-Balthasar de la Chevardi?¿re in Paris as Six Sinfonies ou Quatuorsdialogues, 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 Chevardi?¿re andoriginally scored also for French horns. The first of Haydn's string quartetsseem to have been written for a nobleman, Carl Joseph von F??rnberg, whosecountry seat was at Weinzierl Castle, near Weiselburg, the works to be played byvon F??rnberg's estates manager, the parish priest, Haydn and Johann GeorgAlbrechtsberger. It seems that the string quartets now included in Opus 1
and four of those in Opus 2 were intended for von F??rnberg. Opus 2Nos. 4 and 6 were probably written at sometime in 1759, 1760 or thefollowing year. They are in the manner of cassations or divertimenti, each ofthem in five movements, with two Minuets and lack the subtle complexity ofHaydn's mature quartets.
The Quartet Opus 2, No.4, opens with a fast movement in 6/8 metre andis followed by a Minuet with a B flat major Trio. The F minor slow movement isfollowed by a second Minuet, with a B flat Trio, and a final cheerful Allegro. QuartetNo.6, in B flat major, starts with an Adagio theme with four variations. Thefirst of the two Minuets is contrasted with an E flat major Trio that introducestriplet 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.
The members of the Kodaly Quartet were trained at the Budapest Ferenc LisztAcademy. and three of them, the second violinist Tamas Szabo, viola-playerGabor Fias and cellist Janos Devich, were formerly in the Sebestyen Quartet,which was awarded the jury's special diploma at the 1966 Geneva InternationalQuartet Competition and won first prize at the 1968 Leo Weiner QuartetCompetition in Budapest. Since 1970, with the violinist Attila Falvay, thequartet has been known as the Kodaly Quartet, a title adopted with, theapproval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education. The Kodaly Quartethas given concerts throughout Europe, in the then Soviet Union and in Japan, inaddition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concert hall and ontelevision and has made for Naxos highly acclaimed recordings of string quartetsby Ravel, Debussy, Haydn and Schubert.