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Hyperion Records

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The Thames and the Tower of London supposedly on the King's Birthday (detail) (1771) by Samuel Scott (c1702-1772)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, USA / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67722
Recording details: August 2008
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: June 2009
Total duration: 25 minutes 32 seconds

String Quartet in C minor, Op 17 No 4
composer
1771; recorded from the London edition published by Welcker circa 1774

Moderato  [8'52]
Adagio cantabile  [6'44]
Allegro  [5'34]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Like Op 9, Op 17 includes one work in the minor key. Haydn’s minor-mode works from the years around 1770 are famed for their rhetorical intensity, sometimes turbulent, sometimes—as in the opening Moderato of Op 17 No 4—mingling agitation with pathos. The movement grows from a rising three-note motif that fleetingly suggests E flat major rather than C minor. Each time it recurs the motif pivots the music in unexpected directions. Haydn twice delays the anticipated start of the recapitulation, initially in a passage of ethereal canonic imitation, with the lower instruments following the first violin at a bar’s distance. The coda brings a last-second glint of C major, though minor-keyed tensions are never truly resolved. It is only with the sonorous minuet, founded on the cello’s deep C string, that C major is firmly established. But C minor returns in the syncopated, contrapuntal trio, with its wailing dissonances. In the Adagio, in E flat, Haydn adopts the ‘varied reprise’ form of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (second son of J S), repeating the opening section with florid embellishments from the leader. Opening with a crabbed, angular four-note motif that suggests (and later receives) strenuous contrapuntal treatment, the finale matches the first movement in concentrated power, right through to a coda that softens momentarily into A flat major over a cello pedal—a haunting moment—before the peremptory C minor close.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009

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