Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Menuetto: Allegretto
Movement 3: Affettuoso e sostenuto
Movement 4: Presto
The jewel of the quartet, some might even say of the entire Op 20 set, is the Affettuoso e sostenuto (‘Tender and sustained’), in the dusky key of A flat: music of self-communing inwardness that unfolds throughout in a hushed, rich, four-part chorale texture, with no discernible ‘theme’ and minimal articulation. There is something strangely elusive about this movement, with its weird interlocking and crossing of parts and quietly audacious dissonances. Mozart would remember it in the Andante, likewise in A flat, of his third ‘Haydn’ quartet, K428. The Presto finale is as economically fashioned as the first movement, drawing its quirky energy from its laconic opening theme (consisting of two three-bar phrases) and a series of syncopations that initiate an exciting sequence of modulations in the central development. Like Nos 3 and 4, the quartet ends in a whisper.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2011