In Nos 5 and 6 Haydn abandons the serious, weighty Moderatos of the first four quartets for lighter, popular-style opening movements. The B flat quartet, No 5, begins with a set of variations on a rather homely Poco adagio theme. Following a long-established convention, the ornamental figuration becomes progressively more brilliant in the first three variations, while the final variation brings back the tune in its original simplicity. Only in the elegant dialogue textures of variation two is the first violin’s hegemony briefly challenged. The minuet, kick-started by a typically Austrian gruppetto figure familiar from the minuets of several late Haydn symphonies (most famously the ‘Drum Roll’, No 103), is the most bucolically lusty in Op 9. In the Cantabile largo Haydn exploits the rich, warm colourings characteristic of the key of E flat, and gives the three lower instruments a far more interesting time than in the other Op 9 slow movements. The exposition of the Presto finale—the quartet’s only movement in sonata form—ends quizzically on a dominant seventh chord. Haydn repeats this effect at the end of the recapitulation, necessitating a resolving coda that wittily alludes to the development before fading away pianissimo.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2007