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String Quartet in G major 'How do you do?', Op 33 No 5
'Russian' Quartet No 5; the Schmitt Edition (Amsterdam, 1782) presents the inner movements in reversed order and uses slightly different tempo markings than other editions

'Haydn: String Quartets Op 33' (CDA67955)
Haydn: String Quartets Op 33
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'Haydn: String Quartets Opp 33/4-6 & 42' (CDA66682)
Haydn: String Quartets Opp 33/4-6 & 42
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Movement 1: Vivace assai
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Movement 2: Largo: Cantabile
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Movement 2: Scherzo: Allegro
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Movement 3: Largo e cantabile
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Movement 3: Scherzo: Allegro
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Movement 4: Allegretto
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Movement 4: Finale: Allegretto
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String Quartet in G major 'How do you do?', Op 33 No 5
Both in the manuscript copies preserved in Melk Abbey and in the Artaria edition of Op 33, No 5 in G major appears first. From this we can infer it was probably the earliest of the set to be composed. The Vivace assai—much pacier than the corresponding movements of Nos 1–4—begins pianissimo with a galant cadence: a musical equivalent of a bow or curtsey whose rhythm also prompted the nineteenth-century English nickname ‘How do you do?’. It initiates a movement of almost symphonic boldness and drive, with quasi-orchestral textures created by double stopping and pounding repeated bass notes. Whereas all the other first movements in Op 33 grow from their opening themes, here Haydn accommodates a clear-cut second subject of Mozartian allure, unfolding at leisure over a cello pedal. This moment of lyric repose is mirrored at the centre of the contrapuntally vigorous development, where the second theme reappears in E minor before deflecting to new keys. True to form, Haydn continues to spring surprises throughout the recapitulation—a transformation rather than restatement of earlier events—and coda, which begins with a dramatic plunge from G to E flat major and ends teasingly with the ‘How do you do?’ cadence.

Haydn seems to stick his tongue out in the Scherzo (placed second in the early Schmitt edition), constantly fooling the listener with displaced accents, and then inserting a malicious pause just when we seem to have found our feet. In extreme contrast, the trio is almost exaggeratedly demure. The slow movement is a soulful, increasingly ornate G minor Largo e cantabile in which the first violin impersonates a tragic operatic heroine. Commentators from Donald Tovey onwards have suggested the influence of Gluck here. More specifically, the opening bars seem like a minor-keyed echo of Orpheus’s Elysian aria ‘Che puro ciel!’ in Orfeo ed Euridice, which Haydn had performed at Eszterháza in 1776. At the very end Haydn deflates the tragic mood with a single pizzicato twang. Simplicity is also the keynote of the finale, a set of three variations on a lilting siciliano tune. While the variations are essentially decorative, the second has a luminous grace, with that easy fluidity of texture characteristic of Op 33. Mozart took up Haydn’s idea of a variation finale in siciliano rhythm and gave it a far more troubled cast in his D minor Quartet, K421.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2013

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Details for CDA67955 disc 2 track 7
Largo e cantabile
Recording date
30 June 2012
Recording venue
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Philip Hobbs
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs & Robert Cammidge
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: String Quartets Op 33 (CDA67955)
    Disc 2 Track 7
    Release date: June 2013
    2CDs for the price of 1
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