Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Scherzando: Allegretto
Movement 2: Scherzo: Allegretto
Movement 3: Adagio
Movement 4: Presto
Movement 4: Rondo: Presto
Contradicting its title of Scherzo—and the usually bright, ‘open’ key of C major—the tenderly veiled second movement transmutes a dance into a hymn or prayer, with the four instruments playing sotto voce on their lowest strings. With comical incongruity, the trio resumes the first movement’s avian associations with a twittering duet for the two violins on their high A and E strings. The serene, warmly textured Adagio, in condensed sonata form (with a brief transition instead of a central development), surely left its mark on the slow movement of Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’ Quartet, K465, in the same key. Instead of literally repeating the first section, Haydn varies it with floridly expressive figuration for the first violin: a touchstone for the player’s ‘taste’ and imagination.
The rondo finale is Haydn at his most antic. Its manic refrain, oscillating obsessively between G and E, derives from a Slavonic folk dance. After the tune has tumbled down from first violin to cello, Haydn swerves into an impassioned episode in Hungarian gypsy style. But the mood is quickly punctured by the irrepressible, hyperactive folk tune. The coda is pure slapstick, with a fragment of the theme bandied about between upper and lower instruments before the music seems to disappear into thin air.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2013