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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
View of St Dunstan's in Fleet Street by Samuel Scott (c1702-1772)
Private Collection / Photo © Rafael Valls Gallery, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67955
Recording details: June 2012
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Philip Hobbs
Engineered by Philip Hobbs & Robert Cammidge
Release date: June 2013
Total duration: 19 minutes 48 seconds

'The lovely plangency of gut strings … the many examples of Haydn's wit are laid out with an audible twinkle in the eye. The musicians know how to have gentle fun together—and they seem happy to welcome interested listeners in to share it with them' (Gramophone)

'As in their previous releases, these four players led by Catherine Manson deliver an amazing precision of intonation and articulation' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Lucky Haydn, lucky Haydn lovers … great clarity to textures and there are many exquisitely shaded ends to phrases among the innumerable brilliant moments' (Early Music Review)

'The LHQ are gradually working their way through the mature Haydn quartets, and proving ideal companions in this eventful music … they revel in Haydn's ever-inventive scherzos and zany prestos, with dazzling playing from their leader, Catherine Manson, in the 'Joke' and 'Bird' quartets. Available in a two-for-one deal, this delectable set is a bargain, too' (The Sunday Times)

'These refined performances profile the music’s conversational sophistication and its sheer fluency, underscoring Haydn's gift for civility and wit' (Financial Times)

String Quartet in E flat major 'The Joke', Op 33 No 2
'Russian' Quartet No 2; the Schmitt Edition (Amsterdam, 1782) gives the movement tempo indications slightly differently to other editions

Allegro moderato  [8'03]
Scherzo: Allegro  [3'57]
Presto  [3'08]

Other recordings available for download
Salomon Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The comic disintegration of the theme in the bubbly tarantella finale of No 2 in E flat major, repeatedly fooling the listener as to whether the piece has ended or not, followed by a last appearance, pianissimo, of the opening phrase, has spawned the quartet’s English nickname ‘The Joke’. The story goes that Haydn wrote the ending in order to win a bet that ‘the ladies will always begin talking’ before the music stops. His outrageous deception can still throw listeners of both sexes. (Clara Schumann wrote of how she laughed aloud after a performance by the Joachim Quartet.)

The relaxed first movement encapsulates Op 33’s prevailing spirit of easy, conversational give-and-take, with virtually everything growing from its genial opening phrase: this is a locus classicus of Haydn’s famed monothematicism, where a single idea suffices for a varied and inventive movement. At the start of the development the first bar of the friendly theme is woven in a tight polyphonic web, with that mingled sophistication and airy lightness so characteristic of Op 33.

The Scherzo is an Austrian peasant dance known as a Schuhplattler, with heavy repeated chords to accompany the stamping of feet. Lusty bucolic energy goes hand in hand with Haydnesque wit: at the opening, for instance, the expected four-plus-four-bar phrasing is slyly disrupted by a chromatically tinged two-bar phrase for the violins. Mozart seems to have taken this movement as the model for the minuet in his own E flat major Quartet, K428. In the trio the first violin gives a graphic imitation of an Austrian village fiddler, complete with deliciously vulgar slides (glissandi) between notes that were eschewed by squeamish nineteenth-century editors.

Amid all this frivolity, the Largo e sostenuto third movement introduces a note of gentle gravity. It opens, unprecedentedly in Haydn’s quartets, with a solemn duet for viola and cello before the two violins repeat the melody, intermittently cushioned by drowsy cello murmurs. On each reappearance of this beautiful melody, separated by rhetorical outbursts, Haydn enriches the texture: first in a trio, with the melody in the second violin, then finally in a full quartet sonority, with the viola creating a wonderfully eloquent counterpoint from the murmuring semiquavers.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Haydn: String Quartets Op. 33 Nos 1-3' (CDA66681)
Haydn: String Quartets Op. 33 Nos 1-3

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