Haydn’s String Quartets Op 17 were written during his most effusively productive period, during his tenure in the service of the Esterházy family. He had a magnificent group of musicians at his disposal, including the young virtuoso violinist Luigi Tomasini, whose genius can be traced throughout these works, particularly in the achingly beautiful melodies of the adagio movements. These string quartets mark Haydn’s emergence as an indisputably great composer. They have a seriousness of intent and an increasing mastery of rhetoric and thematic development that are a world away from the lightweight divertimento-quartets that he was formerly producing.
They are performed here on period instruments by the dazzling London Haydn Quartet, whose disc of the Op 9 quartets drew the most extravagant praise from the critics. Their second disc has been eagerly awaited, and comes as part of Hyperion’s celebrations of ‘Haydn year’.