Movement 1: Allegro con spirito
Movement 2: Menuetto: Allegretto
Movement 3: Poco adagio
Movement 4: Allegro molto
The desolate minuet, its unease enhanced by the pervasive five-bar phrases, is relieved by its exquisite, lulling E flat major trio. Both minuet and trio fade away strangely on the brink of C minor, an effect that Haydn replicates in the unsettling pianissimo close of the finale. Though written against the background of sonata form, the Poco adagio, in G major, is essentially a fantasy on a single ardent melody. (A rare surviving sketch for Op 20 reveals that Haydn originally conceived the melody for cello rather than first violin.) Each of its reappearances is characterized by an evocative new sonority, typical of the composer’s heightened sensitivity to tone colour throughout the Op 20 quartets.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2011