Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andantino grazioso
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegro – Trio
Movement 4: Vivace
In order, perhaps, to lay greater emphasis on the trio’s expressive coup, Haydn casts the quartet’s second movement not as one of his deeply felt Adagios, but as an Andantino grazioso of almost Rossinian lightness and transparency. Despite its air of insouciance, its second half contains some startling switches of key—not least, an excursion into a very remote C sharp minor near the close, after which the music is abruptly deposited back into the home key as though nothing untoward had occurred.
The finale is a piece of almost orchestral weight, particularly in the closing bars of each of its halves, which unfold above a single insistent pedal-note. In the latter half of the passage in question, the two lower instruments provide a richly scored drone bass, with the cello playing on ‘open’ strings, while the violins stomp away in octaves—the sort of moment that would have brought the house down at Salomon’s concerts. The movement begins with a play on contrasting sonorities. The main subject itself is given out as if it were to be a rondo theme, with a quasi-repeat of its initial dozen bars in which its articulation is radically changed, from largely smooth phrases to a delicate staccato assai. In the recapitulation (which enters to fine effect at the apex of a phrase, so that development and recapitulation overlap) the staccato version of the theme is reserved for a much later stage, after Haydn has characteristically indulged in further development.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2011