Movement 1: Adagio – Allegro
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegro
Movement 4: Allegretto
The slow movement is one of those great Adagios of Haydn’s late years that seem to unfold in the form of a seamless meditation on its opening theme. The piece is ostensibly a sonata form, but one so broad that the recapitulation could not be allowed to mirror its first half too closely without running the risk of wholesale repetition. Instead, the reprise, following a splendid excursion into a richly sonorous C major, is cast as an ornate variation.
The assertive minuet (its theme ‘fills in’ the octave leaps from the first movement, though their presence is still palpable) meets its obverse side in the trio—a mysterious piece that conspicuously seems to lack a theme. As for the finale, it sets out as a gentle Allegretto; but following a middle section in the minor, the reprise accelerates in its final pages, to bring the work to a brilliant conclusion that has all four players scurrying in fortissimo octaves.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2011