Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegretto
Movement 4: Vivace
The theme of the slow movement, in siciliano-like rhythm, has the lower pair of instruments in a smooth, yearning ascent, and the first violin’s melody descending to meet them. Following a murmuring middle section that takes the music into ‘flatter’ regions, the initial melody returns, this time with its individual phrases prefaced by a grace note, like a kind of expressive glottal stop. In the closing bars, the murmuring sound of the middle section makes itself briefly felt again, before the music fades away into the distance.
The minuet shows Haydn’s wit at its most sophisticated, with the opening six-bar theme immediately restated in full, but harmonized entirely differently. Moreover, at the end, the music’s texture is inverted, so that the initial cello accompaniment now appears at the top, and the theme beneath it.
The finale is as energetic as the opening movement, with rapid repeated notes played by bouncing the bow off the string, and passages of gypsy exuberance that have syncopated inner parts and a drone-like bass line. If the central development section is unusually brief, Haydn more than makes amends by incorporating a lengthy developmental passage into the recapitulation, in a manner typical of his late style. Despite the high jinx of the piece as a whole, Haydn surprisingly allows it to draw to a pianissimo close—the only subdued ending to be found among the six ‘Salomon’ quartets.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2011