HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 71, Apponyi Quartets (Janos Matyas/ Kodaly Quartet) (Naxos: 8.550394)
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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Apponyi Quartets, Nos. 1 - 3 (Op. 71,Nos. 1 - 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 on hisdeath in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of theelderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeededto his position, 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 the new Prince, 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.
The so-called Apponyi Quartets werewritten in 1793 and dedicated to a nobleman, Count Anton Georg Apponyi, who wasa member of the circle dominated by Baron van Swieten, the Gesellschaft derAssociirten, which fostered interest in the music of J. S. Bach and Handel.
It was Apponyi who in 1795 invited Beethoven to try his hand at a stringquartet, an attempt that had to wait a few years. Beethoven's Opus 18 quartetswere published in 1801, with a dedication to Prince Lobkowitz.
The string quartet was traditionally, inVienna, a private form of music, not designed for the concert hall, where suchbuildings existed. During Haydn's first visit to London, however, his Opus 64 quartetshad been performed at the concerts organised for him by the German-bornviolinist Johann Peter Salomon. As Robbins Landon has pointed out in hismagisterial work on the composer, the Apponyi Quartets were intended for publicconcert performance, and are, therefore, markedly different in character fromother quartets by Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven. They were performed, it seems,during the 1794 London season by Salomon, with two members of the Dutch Dahmenfamily playing second violin and cello and the Italian Federigo Fiorilloplaying viola.
The first Apponyi Quartet, Opus 71No.1 in B flat major, opens strongly, the whole of the first movement basedon the theme that follows. The Adagio is gently expressive, the return of thefirst theme much embellished, and the Minuet marked at first by the figuregiven to the cello. The quartet has a final movement thematically related tothe first and third and of the expected brilliance, with an ending that bringsits own surprise.
The Quartet in D major, Opus 71 No.2,opens with a movement of panache, with the briefest of central developmentsections. The first violin introduces the singing theme of the slow movement,which is again in ternary form and brings adventurous harmonic exploration,leading to a Minuet that has about it much of the Scherzo. The quartet endswith a movement that once more makes considerable demands on the first violin,testimony to Salomon's virtuosity.
The Opus 71 Quartets end with thethird, in the key of E flat major. Here the first movement is largelymonothematic, based on its first theme, and brings touches of the ominous as itprogresses. The slow movement is essentially a series of variations. Theseremain based on the customary ternary form in music of remarkable ingenuity, althoughHaydn's ingenuity has all the appearance of ingenuousness. The Minuet happilybridges the change in mood to a contrapuntal and lively Finale.
The members of the Kodaly Quartet weretrained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the secondviolin Tamas Szabo, viola-player Gabor Fias and cellist Janos Devich, wereformerly in the Sebestyen Quartet, which was awarded the jury's special diplomaat the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competition and won first prize at the1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest. Since 1970, with the violinistAttila Falvay, the quartet has been known as the Kodaly Quartet, a titleadopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education.
The Kodaly Quartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in the Soviet Unionand in Japan, in addition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concerthall and on television.