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String Quartet in C major, Op 74 No 1
1793; Apponyi Quartet No 4

'Haydn: String Quartets Opp 71/3 & 74/1' (CDA66098)
Haydn: String Quartets Opp 71/3 & 74/1
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'Haydn: String Quartets Op 74' (CDA67781)
Haydn: String Quartets Op 74
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Movement 1: Allegro
Track 1 on CDA67781 [6'36]
Track 5 on CDA66098 [9'43] Archive Service
Movement 2: Andantino grazioso
Track 2 on CDA67781 [6'07]
Track 6 on CDA66098 [10'31] Archive Service
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegro – Trio
Track 3 on CDA67781 [4'13]
Track 7 on CDA66098 [4'35] Archive Service
Movement 4: Vivace
Track 4 on CDA67781 [5'32]
Track 8 on CDA66098 [8'31] Archive Service

String Quartet in C major, Op 74 No 1
The first two quartets of the Op 74 triptych, composed around the same time as the Symphony No 99, also have the trio of their minuet movement in a third-related key. In Op 74 No 1, the entrance of the trio in a luminous and lyrical A major following the C major of the assertive minuet itself forms the expressive high-point of the work as a whole—a moment of melting beauty. As became his practice when setting the trio in a distant key, Haydn adds a coda that functions as a seamless join to the reprise of the minuet. In this case, however, the pianissimo coda conspicuously fails to modulate back into the minuet’s key. Instead, it remains poised on the threshold of A minor, before eventually coming to rest on a sustained single note of E. Since this is also the first note of the minuet’s theme, the da capo can begin without further ado, though the link serves only to heighten the gulf between the movement’s two sections.

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

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Details for CDA67781 track 4
Recording date
2 February 2011
Recording venue
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: String Quartets Op 74 (CDA67781)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: November 2011
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