Hugh Canning
The Sunday Times
November 2018

Haydn’s Op 64—along with its predecessors, Op 54 and Op 55—used to be known as the 'Tost' quartets, a nod to the name of the Hungarian to whom the composer allegedly dedicated the set. (He had been leader of the second violins in Haydn’s Esterhazy orchestra.) Tost’s reputation has taken a knocking of late, however, as Haydn removed his name as dedicatee from the publication he personally supervised, and the works are notable—with perhaps the exception of the famous 'Lark' Quartet in D—for their avoidance of the virtuoso first-violin part that dominates Op 54 and Op 55. These are more intimate and integrated works, clearly influenced by Mozart’s 1785 set dedicated to Haydn, and packed with Haydnesque 'surprises'. The 'slow' movement of No 1 is a sprightly allegro scherzando, while the adagios of both the G major and the Lark—subtitled 'cantabile'—are serene, aria-like compositions. The London Haydn Quartet’s chronological survey of the composer’s quartets is nearing its completion: the most civilised music, delivered with immaculate technique, urbane humanity and perfect period manners.