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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 CDA67877
Recording details: September 2010
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Simon Kiln
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: September 2011
Total duration: 25 minutes 56 seconds

'An ensemble unique in collective insight, in tempo-management, articulation of melodic design and assessment of harmonic weight … provocative interpretations of enthralling magnitude' (Gramophone)

'The commitment of this string quartet to one composer pays off. Their period tone suits Haydn's melodious down-to-earth writing and they capture the urbane wit and complex intelligence of Vienna's first superstar' (Classic FM)

'The players of the London Haydn Quartet, formed in 2001, refer modestly in their booklet notes to gut strings and Classical bows, saying relatively little about performing practice, but in this respect they are underselling themselves. These performances are not only emotive and truly stirring, but also hint at a good understanding of what we know of performance at the time of the 1801 Artaria edition they have chosen, with a clean yest warm sound, thoughtful stressing of dissonances, some welcome use of portamento and an intelligent and sparing use of vibrato' (The Strad)

'Their lean tone keeps everything impeccably clear, they avoid any sense of casualness, and they make the music sound austerely fresh' (The Irish Times)

String Quartet in E flat major, Op 20 No 1
1772; Sun Quartet No 1

Allegro moderato  [11'47]
Presto  [3'39]

Other recordings available for download
Salomon Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In her BBC Music Guide to the Haydn quartets, Rosemary Hughes memorably described No 1 in E flat major as springing from ‘that central core of tranquillity that lies at the heart of Haydn’s music’. The easy interplay in the opening Allegro moderato, with the instruments nonchalantly swapping roles, is a world away from the violin-dominated first movements in the Op 9 and Op 17 quartets. This movement, too, is a classic example of Haydn’s inspired thematic economy, with the whole varied narrative evolving from the opening phrases. Placed second, as in Nos 3 and 5, the minuet begins with two terse four-bar phrases, one jaunty, the other feline, but then expands with exhilarating freedom in its second part. The quizzical, faintly enigmatic trio, in A flat, unfolds in a three-part texture, with the viola only entering just before the harmonically disorienting lead-back (stressing F minor rather than preparing the home key of E flat) to the minuet.

The jewel of the quartet, some might even say of the entire Op 20 set, is the Affettuoso e sostenuto (‘Tender and sustained’), in the dusky key of A flat: music of self-communing inwardness that unfolds throughout in a hushed, rich, four-part chorale texture, with no discernible ‘theme’ and minimal articulation. There is something strangely elusive about this movement, with its weird interlocking and crossing of parts and quietly audacious dissonances. Mozart would remember it in the Andante, likewise in A flat, of his third ‘Haydn’ quartet, K428. The Presto finale is as economically fashioned as the first movement, drawing its quirky energy from its laconic opening theme (consisting of two three-bar phrases) and a series of syncopations that initiate an exciting sequence of modulations in the central development. Like Nos 3 and 4, the quartet ends in a whisper.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2011

Other albums featuring this work
'Haydn: Sun Quartets Nos 1, 2 & 3' (CDA66621)
Haydn: Sun Quartets Nos 1, 2 & 3

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