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Hyperion Records

CDA67011 - Haydn: Tost III Quartets Nos 1-3
Pastoral Scene (detail) by Frans Swagers (1756-1836)
Roy Miles Gallery, 29 Bruton Steet, London W1 / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Recording details: October 1995
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Roy Mowatt
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: August 1996
DISCID: 96103F0C
Total duration: 68 minutes 3 seconds

'The Salomon's observant, sympathetic readings, beautifully recorded, make a highly persuasive case for works that, the 'Lark' apart, are still far too little heard' (Gramophone)

'The performances glow with life and spirit' (Fanfare, USA)

'The Salomon Quartet exude wit and warmth which the detailed and luminous sound quality assists' (Soundscapes, Australia)

Tost III Quartets Nos 1-3
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Allegro moderato  [6'09]
Finale: Presto  [3'29]
Finale: Presto  [5'46]
Vivace assai  [8'00]
Adagio  [5'41]

The Opus 64 Quartets were written for the maverick violinist Johann Tost, as were the Quartets of Opp 54 (CDA66971) and 55 (CDA66972). The six Quartets were begun during Haydn last unhappy months as Kapellmeister at the Eszterházy court. He had outgrown the possibilites of the job and these works clearly show the early maturity of the full Classical style that the composer was to adopt during his years Vienna.

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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
1790 was a year of momentous change for Haydn. At the beginning of the year he was in Vienna, happy with his friends, going to performances of Mozart’s Figaro, and even organising a string quartet party for his friend Maria Anna von Genzinger. At the beginning of February, however, he was forced to return to his post at Eszterháza Castle, in the wilds of Hungary. On 9 February he wrote disconsolately to von Genzinger: ‘Well, here I sit in my wilderness – forsaken – like a poor waif – almost without any human society – melancholy – full of the memories of past glorious days – yes! past alas! – and who knows when these days shall return again’. Haydn had simply outgrown his post as Kapellmeister to the Eszterházy family. He had been working for them for nearly thirty years, and by 1790 he was the most famous composer in Europe. Yet he felt unable to break his contract while his employer, Prince Nicolaus, was still alive, and release only came when the prince died suddenly on 28 September. Prince Anton, Nicolaus’s successor, had little interest in music and immediately dismissed most of the musicians. Haydn was retained with a pension, but was free to accept other work. One evening a few weeks later the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon announced himself at Haydn’s Viennese apartment with the famous words: “I am Salomon of London and have come to fetch you. Tomorrow we will arrange an accord”.

Little is known about the genesis of Haydn’s Op 64 Quartets, but it is likely he began the set in his last few months at Eszterháza, and continued or even finished them in the autumn of 1790 when he had returned to Vienna. They were published there by Antonin Tomás Kozeluch early in 1791 with a dedication to the violinist and businessman Johann Tost, who had led the second violins in the Eszterháza orchestra, and had been the dedicatee of the Quartets Opp 54 and 55. Haydn seems to have written Opp 54 and 55 for Tost to sell in Paris, but they do not seem to have made a similar arrangement over Op 64. In fact, there is no sign that any of them were performed until Haydn reached London. When John Bland announced the first English edition in The Morning Herald on 10 June 1791, he stated that they had been ‘composed by Giuseppe Haydn, and performed under his direction at Mr Salomon’s concert, the Festino Rooms Hanover Square’. One of them was evidently performed in a concert at the Pantheon on 24 February 1791 – a handbill lists it as a ‘QUARTETTO, Mess. Salomon, Mountain, Hindmarsh, & Menell – HAYDN, M. S.’ – and four more appear to have been played for the first time in Hanover Square concerts on 18 March, 1 April, 15 April and 6 May.

Although most if not all the Op 64 quartets were apparently first performed in public concerts, they are actually less public works than the sets that surround them. The Opp 54 and 55 quartets have brilliant first violin parts, with concerto-like passages exploring high positions, though it is not clear whether in them Haydn was trying to please Johann Tost or was just trying to emulate the concerto-like quatuor brillant favoured by composers in Paris. Similarly, Opp 71 and 74, the sets written for Haydn’s second London visit of 1793/4, are written in a brilliant, nervous style suitable for Salomon’s concerts, with concerto-like passages for the first violin. By contrast, the Op 64 quartets are more intimate works, and their difficulties are more evenly shared between the four instruments. In this respect they are closer to the Op 33 quartets of 1781. Indeed, Paul Griffiths has argued that Haydn deliberately returned to the idiom of the earlier set, using the same six keys, placing the minuet second in Nos 1 and 4 (as in four of the Op 33 quartets), and writing shorter and pithier movements than in Opp 54 and 55.

Nevertheless, comparing the Opp 33 and 64 quartets, one is continually made aware of how much Haydn’s style had developed during the 1780s. One of the most striking changes is to his basic musical language. The early quartets, like the early symphonies, tend to have largely monothematic first movements, often working out a few tiny motifs in every conceivable situation. This was markedly old-fashioned by 1780, for it tended to preserve the rhythmic continuity and motivic energy of Baroque music. Most of Haydn’s contemporaries had long since adopted a more relaxed, galant style, in which a number of expansive, elegant melodies were compared and contrasted. In the 1780s Haydn developed a close friendship with Mozart, who published his famous quartets dedicated to Haydn in 1785. From these Haydn learned how to combine his motivic ‘conversational’ style with a new relaxed melodiousness. This new ‘popular’ idiom – effectively the first appearance of the full-blown Classical style – can be heard in the ‘Paris’ symphonies of 1785/6, and in many of the movements of Op 64. For instance, the Allegro moderato of Op 64 No 1 starts with an eight-bar tune that is repeated before being extended (a standard galant procedure), though only Haydn at the time would also have made it serve in a modified form as the second subject. Similarly, the famous first movement of the ‘Lark’ Quartet, Op 64 No 5, with its soaring first violin melody at the opening (hence its nickname), is as tightly organised as anything in earlier Haydn, though its relaxed tunefulness makes it sound Mozartian to the casual listener.

Another sign of the times is the use of variation techniques in the slow movements. Haydn had developed a type of movement in his Paris symphonies in which a folk-like tune, often marked Andante or even Allegretto rather than Adagio, is the basis for a set of variations. Haydn mostly preferred song-like Adagio themes in Op 64, though the ‘slow’ movement of Op 64 No 1 is an Allegretto scherzando, and they all use variation patterns of one sort or another. The simplest pattern is found in Nos 3, 4, 5, and 6, which have a theme and two variations. The first variation is in the tonic minor, so the movement has the character of an aria, with the return to the major sounding like the ornamented da capo section of an opera seria aria. The Adagio ma non troppo of Op 64 No 2 keeps to the remote and radiant key of B major throughout its theme, three variations and coda, which gives it a curiously static, hypnotic quality. It is perhaps the most perfect expression of that mood of loneliness, nostalgia and regret that infected the works Haydn wrote in his last year at Eszterháza.

Peter Holman © 1996

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