Like its predecessor in Op 9 No 6, the 6/8 first movement of the D major quartet, No 6, conjures up the chase, though with an added harmonic adventurousness (the ‘second subject’ slips via A minor to C major) and quicksilver variety of texture. Haydn would fruitfully mine this vein again the following year in the opening movement of Op 20 No 6. After this delightful, capricious Presto, the minuet, with its frequent pedal points, is the most sedate in Op 17. The Largo, opening with a long-held note, a favourite gambit in opera seria arias, is another showcase for Tomasini, with an improvised cadenza at the end. Conversely, of all the movements in Op 17, the finale, with its chuckling, quickfire exchanges, is the most consistently democratic in texture, and hardly suffers by comparison with its counterpart in Op 20 No 4. There is also a foretaste of the famous ‘Frog’ Quartet, Op 50 No 6, in the first violin’s gypsy-flavoured bariolage—rapid repetitions of the same note played alternately on open and fingered strings. The pianissimo ending, isolating and inverting a two-note figure from the theme, is one of the most nonchalantly witty in all Haydn.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009