Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Scherzo: Allegretto
Movement 3: Largo
Movement 4: Presto
The jewel of the quartet is the rapt E flat major Largo, with its soaring violin cantilena and gorgeous remote modulations. More than any other slow movement in Op 33, the music looks ahead fifteen years to the profound meditations in Haydn’s Op 76 quartets. Sentiment is gleefully banished in the finale, a whirlwind rondo that varies its catchy contredanse theme on each return. In the second episode, in G minor, Haydn mines his favourite Hungarian gypsy vein, as he had done in the ‘Bird’. Again the movement disintegrates into slapstick. After a distended, spidery version of the theme and a failed attempt to ‘normalize’ it, Haydn cuts his losses and exits with an absurd simplification of the tune, played pizzicato. Back in the 1760s, po-faced critics from Berlin and Hamburg had taken Haydn to task for ‘debasing the art with comic fooling’. Two decades later he was still at it.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2013