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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: 26 minutes 53 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 C major, Op 20 No 2
composer
1772; Sun Quartet No 2

Moderato  [11'35]

Other recordings available for download
Salomon Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
No 2 in C major is a favourite of cellists, who have glorious solo opportunities right from the opening, where the cello sings the theme in a three-part quasi-contrapuntal texture, with viola providing the bass. Haydn then reassigns the cello tune to the hitherto silent first violin. Of all the Op 20 works, this is the one that most ostentatiously proclaims the composer’s delight in his new-found democratic freedom of texture. Many of the sonorities in the first movement have a sensuous richness, enhanced by the gorgeous harmonic ‘purple patch’ (a deflection from G major, via G minor, to E flat) near the end of the exposition. The C minor Adagio, labelled Capriccio, is the consummation of the Baroque-flavoured operatic scenas found in two earlier Haydn quartets, Op 9 No 2 and Op 17 No 5. After a recitative, with cello and first violin in turn pleading with an implacable ‘orchestra’, the first violin spins a heart-easing E flat cantabile. The unquiet mood of the opening returns, with agitated triplet figuration, tentatively resolved by the gliding, syncopated minuet, an ethereal musette written pointedly against the rhythm of the courtly dance. In the trio, Haydn reverts to a dark C minor. The cello’s doleful descending sequence, set against suspensions for the upper voices, sounds like a distant, distorted echo of the opening of the Adagio. Only the return of the minuet-musette fully resolves the accumulated C minor tensions of the Adagio and the trio.

The final fugue, on four subjects and in a jig-like 6/8 metre, is the most contrapuntally virtuosic in Op 20. More than anywhere else in the set, Haydn here designs the finale as the work’s intellectual climax. Yet, as in No 6, he displays his learning with a light, scherzando touch, using fugue as an opportunity for witty banter, and delightedly exploiting the principal subject’s octave leap. After pages of unbroken sotto voce, the closing section erupts in an assertive forte that transforms the close fugal texture into free imitation, typical of Haydn’s ‘normal’ mature quartet style. Haydn punningly encapsulated the mercurial spirit of this finale when he wrote at the end of the score: ‘Laus omnip: Deo / Sic fugit amicus amicum’ (‘Praise to Almighty God / Thus one friend escapes another’).

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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