HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 64, Nos. 4 - 6 (Ibolya Toth/ Kodaly Quartet) (Naxos: 8.550674)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
String Quartet in G major, Op. 64,No.4, Hob. III: 66
String Quartet in D major, Op. 64,No.5, Hob. III: 63 "The lark"
String Quartet in E flat major, Op.
64, No.6, Hob. III: 64
Joseph Haydn was born in the villageof Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen'sCathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teachingand 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 aBohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment asVice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy,succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of theelderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to hisposition, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificentpalace at Esterhaza, in the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed commandof an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musicalactivities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumentalmusic, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For his patron he provided aquantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiarinstrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument with sympathetic strings that couldalso be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music forthe concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successfulvisit to London 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, was to be spentin Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies ofNapoleon approached the city yet again.
Haydn lived during the period of the18th century 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 basis of muchinstrumental composition. The string quartet itself, which came to represent classicalmusic in its purest form, grew from a genre that was relatively insignificant, at least inits nomenclature, the Divertimento, into music of greater weight, substance andcomplexity, although Haydn, like any great master, knew well how to conceal the technicalmeans by which he achieved his ends. The exact number of string quartets that Haydn wroteis not known, although he listed some 83. The earlier of these, often under the title Divertimento, proclaim their origin and purpose. Thelast quartet, Opus 103, started in 1803, remained unfinished.
The string quartets of Opus 64
constitute a second set of six quartets for the violinist Johann Tost, who had led thesecond violins of Haydn's orchestra at Esterhaza from 1783 until his departure for Parisin 1788, although he was mentioned as Music Director for the Seipp theatre company inPressburg (the modern Slovak capital of Bratislava) in the previous year. In Paris Tost'ssale of Haydn compositions caused some trouble that may be understood in the light of hisearlier suggestion for the pirating of music belonging to Prince Esterhazy. In 1790 Tostreturned to Vienna, where he married a housekeeper in the Esterhazy service, prosperingthereafter as a cloth-merchant. Nine years later he is heard of again in his suggestion toSpohr that he buy exclusive rights to the latter's chamber music, thus securing forhimself entry to the houses of rich patrons, something that would materially assist hisbusiness. The arrangement was one to which Spohr assented. Mozart also apparently providedTost with chamber music, namely his last two string quintets.
The Opus 64 quartets were written in 1790 and announcedfor sale in the Wiener Zeitung in February 1791, with an English edition appearing inLondon in June of the same year, after their performance at concerts under the directionof the violinist-impresario Salomon at the Festino Rooms in Hanover Square, when theperformers were Salomon himself, the second violinist Hindmarsh, cellist Menel andviola-player the older Damen.
Opus64, No.4, in G major, opens with a first subject based on theascending arpeggio, and takes the first violin high on the G string in its coda at the endof the exposition and again, now on the D string, at the end of the third sectionrecapitulation. The Minuet, placed second, has a Trio in which the first violin isaccompanied by the plucked notes of the rest of the quartet. The movement leads to C majorAdagio with a central section in C minor and a Finale that finds room for a display ofcontrapuntal skill in its central development section.
The fifth of the Opus 64 Tost Quartets, known as The Lark from the initial entry of the first violinin the eighth bar in the high register used from time to time in these quartets. Tripletsadd increased movement and the use of remoter keys in the development at the heart of themovement adds a feeling of tension later dispelled as the material of the first sectionduly returns. The slow movement continues to use the pattern of outer major sections basedon the same material framing a minor key central section. There is are turn from A majorto D major for the Minuet, a playful scherzo in mood, with its D minor Trio. The lastmovement calls for considerable panache in its rapid and almost perpetual motion.
The final quartet of the Opus 64 set, in E flat major, demonstrates againHaydn's great variety, with its dramatic first movement section. The slow movement, heremarked Andante, is again on a major-minor-major pattern, its central section using higherregisters of the first violin, a region explored again by the first violin at the end ofthe Trio of the Minuet movement. The last movement finds room for contrapuntal material inmusic of consistent wit and invention.
The members of the Kodaly Quartet were trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, andthree of them, the second violinist Tamas Szabo, viola-player Gabor Fias and cellistJanos Devich, were formerly in the Sebestyen Quartet, which was awarded the jury'sspecial diploma at the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competition and won first prizeat the 1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest. Since 1970, with the violinistAttila Falvay, the quartet has been known as the Kodaly Quartet, a title adopted with theapproval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education. The Kodaly Quartet has givenconcerts throughout Europe, in the then Soviet Union and in Japan, in addition to regularappearances in Hungary both in the concert hall and on television and has made for Naxoshighly acclaimed recordings of string quartets by Ravel. Debussy, Haydn and Schubert.