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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: 30 minutes 6 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 D major, Op 20 No 4
1772; Sun Quartet No 4

Allegro di molto  [10'55]

Other recordings available for download
Salomon Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
No 4 in D major is the most obviously ‘tuneful’ of Op 20, looking ahead to later Haydn in its incorporation of popular-style melodies. The expansive yet sinewy opening Allegro di molto makes mysterious/dramatic capital of its initial ‘drum’ motif, always likely to pivot the music to an unexpected tonal area. With the instruments often paired in mellifluous thirds and sixths (as in the dialogues between upper and lower voices in the second group of themes), the textures sound more ‘Mozartian’ to us than usual in Haydn’s quartets. As in several of his symphonies from the 1770s, Haydn brings back the opening theme in the home key quite near the start of the development, a ploy that might fool the unwary (though hardly the connoisseurs in his select audience) into thinking that the recapitulation has actually arrived.

The poignant D minor Un poco adagio affettuoso is Haydn’s only variation movement cast entirely in the minor key (and there is no parallel in Mozart or Beethoven). The second half of the theme, with each instrument rising slowly by step, reaches an almost excruciating pitch of intensity. Of the three variations, the first is fashioned as a fretful dialogue between second violin and viola, the second exploits the cello over its whole compass, and the third dissolves the theme into triplets for the first violin. After a reprise of the original theme, shorn of its repeats, Haydn expands the scale in an astonishing, unprecedented fantasia-cum-coda that stresses the dissonant melodic shapes within the theme and, in the fragmentary final bars, pushes the music to the brink of incoherence.

Returning to a world of robust normality, the minuet, Allegretto alla zingarese (‘gypsy-style’), and Presto scherzando finale mine Haydn’s favourite Hungarian gypsy vein with irresistible wit and élan. In the former a riot of offbeat accents keep the listener guessing as to whether this is a minuet or a gavotte. In pointed contrast, the trio deals in perfectly regular four-bar phrases, with a jaunty cello solo against the simplest of accompaniments. The finale lives up to its scherzando billing in music of controlled waywardness and harmonic surprise, treating its impish opening motif in the free, informal contrapuntal textures that are among the chief delights of Haydn’s mature quartet style.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2011

Other albums featuring this work
'Haydn: Sun Quartets Nos 4, 5 & 6' (CDA66622)
Haydn: Sun Quartets Nos 4, 5 & 6

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