HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 64, Nos. 1- 3 (Ibolya Toth/ Kodaly Quartet) (Naxos: 8.550673)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
String Quartets Op. 64, Nos. 1 -3
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the sonof a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, hespent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin orkeyboard, 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 vonMorzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of therichest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded on his death in 1762 byhis brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructiveKapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the sameemployment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza, inthe Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musicalestablishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, whichincluded the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, andmusic 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 stringinstrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able toaccept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert seasonorganized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterhazy family, the new head ofwhich had settled principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn hadstarted his career. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydnpassed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached thecity yet again.
The string quartets of Opus64 constitute a second set of six quartets for the violinist Johann Tost, whohad led the second violins of Haydn's orchestra at Esterhaza from 1783 until hisdeparture for Paris in 1788, although he was mentioned as Music Director for the Seipptheatre company in Pressburg (the modern Slovak capital of Bratislava) in the previousyear. In Paris Tost's sale of Haydn compositions caused some trouble that may beunderstood in the light of his earlier suggestion for the pirating of music belonging toPrince Esterhaly. In 1790 Tost returned to Vienna, where he married a housekeeper in theEsterhaly service, prospering thereafter as a cloth-merchant. Nine years later he isheard of again in his suggestion to Spohr that he buy exclusive rights to the latter'schamber music, thus securing for himself entry to the houses of rich patrons, somethingthat would materially assist his business. The arrangement was one to which Spohrassented. Mozart also apparently provided Tost with chamber music, namely his last twostring quintets.
The Opus 64
quartets were written in 1790 and announced for sale in the Wiener Zeitung in February1791, with an English edition appearing in London in June of the same year, after theirperformance at concerts under the direction of the violinist-impresario Salomon at theFestino Rooms in Hanover Square, when the performers were Salomon himself, the secondviolinist Hindmarsh, cellist Menel and viola-player the older Damen. The first of the setopens with the principal theme played by the first violin, joined in its repetition by thesecond. The movement, which moves into triplets, includes examples of bariolage, as thefirst violin plays the same note on alternating strings. The third section recapitulationcontains an unexpected modulation, before returning to the original key of C major inconclusion. The second movement Minuet has a contrasting C minor Trio and is followed byan F major movement marked Allegretto scherzando and dominated by its principal theme, thecase also with the lively Finale.
The first violin opens the second quartet, Opus 64, No.2, in an apparent D major, before thethird bar establishes the key of B minor in a movement of deep feeling. The secondmovement Adagio is in B major, its effect enhanced by the accompanying patterns providedby 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 flatmajor, has a principal subject followed by an insistent repeated rhythm introduced by thecello and at once taken up by the other instruments. The E flat major slow movement has acentral section in E flat minor, followed by the return of the opening section In variedform. The repeated Minuet frames a Trio with unusual syncopation and the succeeding Finaleagain demonstrates the infinite variety of which Haydn is capable, within the restrictionsof the established form.
The members of the Kodaly Quartet were trained at the BudapestFerenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second violinist Tamas Szabo, viola-playerGabor Fias and cellist Janos Devich, were formerly in the Sebestyen Quartet, which wasawarded the jury's special diploma at the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competitionand 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 Kodaly Quartet, atitle adopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education. TheKodaly Quartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in the then Soviet Union and inJapan, in addition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concert hall and ontelevision and has made for Naxos highly acclaimed recordings of string quartets by Ravel.
Debussy, Haydn and Schubert.