Haydn's F minor string quartet was written in , which takes us back to the earliest days of the genre. I mentioned briefly in our very first lecture something of the string quartet's origins, which were in early eighteenth-century orchestral groups. The two violins there tended to function in what's called a "trio-sonata" texture, weaving in and out of each other's line, frequently overlapping; and the viola and cello tended to supply little more than the functional bass part.
All this means that the famed "equality" of the mature genre was initially nowhere to be found, except in those "trio-sonata", interweaving upper lines. So the string quartet started life as a kind of minimal orchestra, for performances in smaller venues, many of them domestic.
But by the s it had taken on a life of its own, soon becoming the most common chamber music ensemble of the later eighteenth century: first in Germany and Austria, then spreading, with the spread of its repertoire, to other European countries. What is important, though, is that this "life of its own" came about during, and was profoundly influenced by, an important, Europe-wide change in musical style. That change used to be labelled by music historians as a shift from the "Baroque" to the "Classical" period, something initially thought to have occurred, as if by the stroke of some magic wand, one dark night in the coincidence of the half-century with the death of J.
Bach, the greatest "Baroque" composer, proved irresistible ; now, however, the style shift has been pushed back in time and, like all such changes in artistic expression, made irremediably muddy around the edges.
There is, though, general consensus that a new type of music-writing began to emerge in the first decades of the eighteenth century: one that was made internationally prominent in the s and s in the Italian operas of composers such as Leonardo Vinci and Johann Adolf Hasse. British music historian Charles Burney, summing up Vinci's manner later in the century, was in no doubt about its merits. For him, Vinci had broken new ground by "simplifying and polishing melody, and calling the attention of the audience chiefly to the voice part, by disentangling it from fugue, complication and laboured contrivance".
This was, then, a kind of new simplicity: a style that was geared towards pleasing rather than impressing the listener, and that achieved this by concentrating on clearly-defined melody, and by rejecting the contrapuntal complexity associated with the previous generation. I could put this another way and say that Bach's music, ultimately, was written for the glory of God; and God, as befitted a stern old character with a grey beard, was prone to be rather severe in his musical taste.
Vinci, Hasse and the mass of instrumental and vocal composers that followed them, on the other hand, wrote for audiences: fallible, fickle, all-too human groups of real people.
Haydn was one of these new-style composers, although, as we shall see, it was part of his special talent that he never thoroughly forsook the old, "laboured contrivance" way of writing music, then increasingly referred to as the "learned" style. He was born in in modest circumstances in a village in lower Austria, gained his musical education as a choirboy in Vienna and then, when nature took its course, earned a living in the capital of the vast Austro-Hungarian empire, by all accounts somewhat precariously as a "freelance" composer.
A generation earlier and" quel horreur "he might have graduated from being a choirboy to being a castrato; but probably not, as his singing voice, though true, was reported as not particularly pleasing. During the late s, already well into his twenties that is, at an age when Mozart, twenty years his junior, would have been reaching the height of his tragically short career , Haydn wrote his first string quartets. They were among the first in the new genre, were resolutely in the "galant" style, and"in part to reflect this"were called "divertimenti" rather than anything more grand.
These early efforts are in five movements two minuets flank a central slow movement , and, while showing in generous measure Haydn's unfailing rhythmic invention and melodic charm, do not otherwise distinguish themselves notably from the music of his contemporaries. Indeed, six of the early quartets, revered by generations of connoisseurs as Haydn's "Op. Entries on poor Hofstetter in modern musical dictionaries he is not, they warn us, to be confused with his brother, Johann Urban Alois Hosfstetter, who was"as I'm sure everyone here knows"an officer in the Franconian province of the Teutonic order tend to concentrate almost exclusively on these fugitive pieces.
Of the many modes of entry in the musical hall of distinction, one feels that Hoffstetter's must be among the most unglamorous. He would remain there for nearly thirty years, and from was the court's Kapellmeister , which meant local composer and musical director rolled into one: higher on the social scale than a liveried servant, but not much higher. Most of the music Haydn wrote in his early days of service was emphatically made to order.
The ruling Prince, for example, loved playing an obscure, cello-like stringed instrument called the baryton; so Haydn was obliged indeed was expressly ordered to compose trios featuring the instrument and compose them virtually by the yard: in all he produced of these exotic and, in terms of wider distribution, useless items. Some of his other tasks were mercifully more mainstream, such as supplying the court with large-scale religious pieces, a number of operas, and"most famous today"a series of ever more inventive and innovatory symphonies.
As he later reminisced to one of his earliest biographers:. My prince was satisfied with all my works; I received approval. As head of an orchestra I could try things out, observe what creates effect and what weakens it, and thus revise, make additions or cuts, take risks. I was cut off from the world, nobody in my vicinity could upset my self-confidence or annoy me, and so I had no choice but to become original. It was only at the end of his first decade of service that Haydn again turned to the string quartet. Whatever the reason, during the late s and early s he produced three sets of six quartets, all of them now in four movements rather than five, and gathered into opus numbers for publication as Opp.
Although some of these quartets retain aspects of the "divertimento" character of his earlier pieces in the genre, many of them show a decisive change of mood and reach: for reasons that also remain unclear, Haydn decided to devote to the quartet a new seriousness of approach, to imbue it with what we might call added aesthetic weight. And this experiment, if such it was, proved enormously influential.
These eighteen string quartets are the first to have retained a firm place in the repertory, and they launched further sets of quartets, first by Haydn himself his Op. The common practice of the time was to write melodies that divided neatly into four- and eight-measure chunks. But the opening phrase of the third quartet, in G minor, is seven measures long, and the minuet of the same quartet has a melody that is divided into two phrases of five measures each.
Indeed, in opus 20, most of the minuet movements are minuets in name only. The minuet was a court dance, through-choreographed, built of four groups of four measures in 3 4 time.
Naxos. No commercial recordings available for your location. Reprinted, String Quartets, Opp and Mineola: .. III); Quatuor op n°5 de Joseph Haydn; Quatuors à cordes op. Instrumentation, 2 violins, viola, cello The String Quartets of Joseph Haydn by F. & W. Grave, String Quartet in D minor, Hob. String Quartet in F minor, Hob. Categories, Quartets; For 2 violins, viola, cello; Scores featuring the violin; [10 more. in String Quartets, Op (No.5).
The minuets of opus 20, with the exception of numbers 1 and 6, would be impossible to dance to, as they do not have this formal structure. The minuet of the second quartet in C major is built of tied suspensions in the first violin, viola and cello, so that the listener loses all sense of downbeat. The fourth quartet has the off-beat alla zingarese movement. The minuet of the fifth quartet has a first section of 18 measures, divided asymmetrically. So far did Haydn stray from the formal minuet dance structure, that in his next set of quartets, opus 33 , he did not call them minuets at all, but rather scherzos.
The fugal finales of three of the six quartets are Haydn's statement of rejection of the galante. Not only has Haydn rejected the freedom of the rococo style, he has emphasized that rejection by adhering to strict formality and writing comments into the score explaining the fugal structure. The finale of number six is a "Fuga a 3 Soggetti" a fugue with three fugal subjects. The fugal finales are not mere formalism, however; Haydn clothes them in a dramatic structure suitable for the Sturm und Drang.
All three movements start out sotto voce ; as the fugue develops formally, the tension mounts, but Haydn does not increase the volume, until a sudden, startling burst of forte. Haydn's fugal finales are not the only use of counterpoint in these quartets. Haydn revives Baroque compositional techniques in other movements as well. The opening of the second quartet is essentially contrapuntal, with the viola and the second violins playing countersubjects to the cello's principal melodic line.
Haydn also uses more obscure techniques; in the adagio movement of the fifth quartet, for example, he writes at one point "per figuram retardationis", meaning that the melodic line in the first violin lags behind the harmonic changes in the accompaniment. While the first movement is in straightforward sonata-allegro form, Haydn nonetheless breaks with the standard quartet model of the period. The second theme of the exposition is presented by the cello, rather than the violin, playing in a high register above the viola accompaniment.
Haydn also disguises the return to the recapitulation after the development section of the movement:  after only three bars of development, Haydn returns to the theme in the tonic , suggesting the beginning of the recapitulation; but instead, deviates into a series of transpositions, finally sneaking back to the main theme when least expected.
Haydn uses this trick of a pretended recapitulation in others of the opus 20 quartets. The second movement is a minuet , one of two from the set that follow all the rules of the traditional dance the other is the minuet of number 6. The finale, marked presto , is built on a six-measure phrase, with extensive use of syncopations in the first violin. In the middle of the movement there is an extended passage where the first violin plays syncopations and the other instruments are playing on the second beat of the 2 4 bar; no one plays on the downbeat, and toward the end of the passage the listener loses track of the meter, until the main theme returns.
In this quartet, Haydn develops the equal interplay between the instruments, the quartet conversation. The first movement opens with a cello solo, playing above the accompanying instruments. In the course of the movement every instrument gets to play the solo — even the viola, who, "besides having a vote in the parliament of four The second movement opens with a bold unisono , then the cello states the theme.
It is an emotionally charged movement, with dramatic shifts from pianissimo to forte , mixed with cantabile passages with a sextuplet accompaniment in the viola. The minuet, like others in the set, defies choreography. In the opening section, all the instruments are tied across the barline, so the sense of downbeat dissipates. The effect recalls the sound of a musette de cour , or other type of bagpipe. This movement, too, is very chromatic, with the melody of the second section built on a descending chromatic scale in the first violin.
The finale is a fugue with four subjects. Haydn marks the opening sempre sotto voce. The fugue ripples along in an undertone, through various learned fugal maneuvers — a stretto , al rovescio. The texture gradually thins so that only two voices are playing at once, when suddenly the fugue bursts into forte and cascades of sixteenth notes lead to the close of the quartet. In the autograph edition, Haydn wrote over this passage, "Laus. Sic fugit amicus amicum" Praise the Lord. Thus one friend flees another friend. The enigma begins with the opening theme of the first movement: built of two phrases of seven measures each, it defies the galante practice of carefully balanced four- and eight-measure phrases.
It is almost as if Haydn was wagging his tongue at his contemporaries, violating accepted shibboleths of composition. Haydn continues the odd phrase structure in the minuet, which is built of five-measure units.
Aside from its undanceable meter, the minuet is a sombre work, emphatically minor in character. The trio ends with a plagal cadence to G major, for a Baroque-like Picardy third conclusion; but then the minuet recapitulates in G minor. The move from G major back to G minor is so jolting that Drabkin speculates that the trio might possibly have been borrowed from another piece.
The third movement, marked Poco Adagio , is a long cantabile aria in G major, dominated by the first violin and the cello. After the first violin states the theme, the cello takes over with a long rippling line of sixteenth notes. The movement includes a haunting viola solo, unusual in Haydn's quartets, and in quartet writing from that period in general.
The finale is marked Allegro molto. Here, too, Haydn continues to defy accepted practice. Here Haydn makes dramatic use of silence; the opening four-bar theme breaks off suddenly for a half-measure pause. Such pauses recur throughout the movement, giving the movement "a mildly disruptive effect", according to Drabkin.
He ends the piece in G major, surprisingly, with a descent from piano to pianissimo. If the third quartet of the set is the most obscure and difficult to understand, the fourth is the most popular. The D major quartet, opus 20 number 4, has met with more public recognition than the other five," writes Tovey.
The quartet opens with a quiet, almost hymn-like statement of the theme. Suddenly there is a burst of arpeggio in the first violin, lapsing immediately back to the quiet of the first motive. The juxtaposition of calm and vigor continues through the exposition, to the statement of the second theme, and a short codetta leading to the development. In the development section, Haydn repeatedly offers false reprises: After a section of development, he presents a dominant arpeggio leading back to the first theme. But this is not the reprise, the development goes on.
The quartet opens with taut sonata that, typical of those in a minor key, has readily discernible components: a first theme in a minor key, a second theme in a major key, and a recapitulation that vividly recasts the second back into the dominating minor. Haydn adds even greater clarity and impact to his dramatic transitions through a calculated use of silence; He breaks, suspends and delays the music to marvelous effect.
Even in such an early quartet, Haydn crafts his sonata form with great flexibility. The recapitulation differs significantly from the exposition with a good deal of additional "development", and the movement is famous for its sizable coda in which Haydn further intensifies the grave conclusion with a daring series of key changes that prepare the hushed ending with unsettling obliqueness.
The coda's material is drawn from the once bright second theme, here brought over to the dark side and paraded as a dour trophy of conquest. As in half of the Op. A little sonata itself, it maintains the stern face of F minor until its trio brings relief with the parallel key of F major, smooth melodic contours and a noticeable lightening of texture that recalls the traditional origin of the word "trio": a trio of soloists in contrast to the full orchestra.
Haydn uses silence again, this time for a light-hearted effect that highlights the final six bars of luscious texture, a final flourish before returning to the somber minuet. Serious relief from the serious arrives with the slow movement Adagio , a wonder of refreshing charm featuring still newer textures, an exquisite aria for the first violin, a little canon for violin duo and a delightful display of one of Haydn's greatest powers: his imagination for variation.
It was often used for opera arias or instrumental pieces featuring a simple, singing melody with a gentle lilt and clear, directly felt harmonies. The finale is the first of three in Op. He proudly featured this new approach with a systematic design. With Haydn's initial ordering, the Op. The fugue is a technique of strict contrapuntal imitation that dates back to the midth century.
Culminating in the music of Bach, it subsequently fell out of favor with the new style of simplified expression that characterized the pre-Classical era. Haydn's re-introduction of fugue added new intellectual, textural and dramatic dimensions to the music, which, along with and within the sophisticated development of sonata form defined the new era of Classical music. Within the context of chamber music, the contrapuntal demands of fugue immediately renders all players equal as the music becomes not a melody with accompaniment, but a simultaneous progression of four independent melodies.
The magnificent classical fugues of Mozart and Beethoven find their origins in this historical moment. While Haydn seemed to use fugue to assert the ultimate equality of parts in the string quartet, equality of strict imitation does not promote expressive independence. Future developments in the string quartet from Haydn, Mozart and especially Beethoven would leaven this fugal impulse with techniques for a more organic interplay, the give and take of independent parts where, equal or not, there is a balanced cooperation for stimulating musical dialog.
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