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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: 29 minutes 57 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 F minor, Op 20 No 5
1772; Sun Quartet No 5

Allegro moderato  [13'51]
Menuetto  [5'48]
Adagio  [6'15]

Other recordings available for download
Salomon Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
While the G minor is still relatively neglected, No 5 in F minor, greatly admired by Gluck when he visited Haydn in 1776, has long been a favourite. Like the C minor Piano Sonata written the previous year, the magnificent opening movement recreates the Empfindsamkeit (‘heightened sensitivity’) of C P E Bach in terms of Haydn’s more dynamic, ‘goal-oriented’ style. The sinuous, elegiac main theme is, characteristically, immediately varied, and then recast when it appears in the relative major, A flat. Unusually for Haydn at this period there is a distinct ‘second subject’, initiated by a confident octave leap and then petering out inconclusively. The central development, beginning with a sequential expansion of the main theme, varies rather than truly develops the material. Rigorous thematic argument is reserved for the coda, the most eventful and extended in any Haydn quartet to date. Here the composer wonderfully expands a moment of harmonic mystification in the exposition and then works a fragment of the second theme to an impassioned, even tragic, climax.

The powerful minuet contrasts a strenuous forte statement with a plaintive piano answer which Mozart perhaps remembered in the minuet of his G minor String Quintet. In the second half Haydn prolongs and intensifies the forte statement and enhances the poignancy of the piano reply with a surprise harmonic deflection. After this almost unrelieved emphasis on F minor, the F major trio brings harmonic balm, though with its irregular phrase lengths it is not quite so innocent as it may first seem. F major returns in the limpid Adagio, whose guileless siciliano theme is freely varied with quasi-improvisatory arabesques from the first violin. Of the three fugal finales in Op 20, No 5’s double fugue, based on a common tag used by Handel in Messiah (‘And with his stripes we are healed’) and Mozart in the Kyrie of the Requiem, is the most austerely Baroque in flavour—though a Baroque fugue in F minor would not have modulated as far afield as A flat minor. Haydn here displays every contrapuntal trick of the trade: inversion, stretto (i.e. with thematic entries piling in on top of each other) and, near the end, a climactic fortissimo canon between first violin and cello, all the more dramatic after so much tense sotto voce.

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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