The isolated Quartet Opus 42 was written in 1784 and was published by Hoffmeister in Vienna during the next year. It is not clear why it was written, or why it has no companions, but it may relate to a set of quartets apparently comissioned from Haydn by a Spanish patron in 1784. The composer told Artaria that the spanish quartets were to be 'very short and consist of three pieces only'. Op 42 is certainly strangely brief for its place in Haydn's output, but it has the conventional four movements. Perhaps the composer added the Minuet and Trio to the only 'Spanish Quartet' he completed before, for one reason or another, the project was abandoned. Another possibility, as Marion Scott once suggested, is that the Quartet was written for young performers. The work is certainly simple and modest in its demands (though the first violin goes up to a d'''' in the Minuet), but it is a highly sophisticated simplicity, born of great experience.
from notes by Peter Holman © 1993