String Quartet in B-flat Op.76/4 ‘Sunrise’

Composer: Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
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Composer: Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)

Performance date: 01/07/2010

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1796-7

Duration: 00:23:48

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Chiaroscuro Quartet (Alina Ibragimova, Pablo Hernán Benedí [violins], Emilie Hörnlund [viola], Claire Thirion [cello]) - [quartet]

String Quartet in B-flat Op.76/4 ‘Sunrise’

Haydn’s two trips to England in 1791 and 1794 gave the composer a
new lease of life after his long years at the beck and call of the Esterhazy
family. The sudden freedom, the stimulation of music-loving audiences and
access to superb musicians had a galvanising effect on the ageing composer, who
produced a dozen quartets, four keyboard sonatas, four Masses, ten symphonies
and the oratorio, The Creation, in less than 10 years. It has been argued that
Haydn was the only composing genius for whom the broad simplifying wisdom of
old age presided over both the rebellious impetuosity of youth as well as the
complex inventions of middle age all at the same time. We should perhaps note
that this is the last completed set of quartets that Haydn wrote.

The nickname is self-explanatory as soon as you hear the magical
introduction, music of sustained and glowing beauty that enters from nowhere
and leads without a pause into the driving Allegro first subject. When the
music modulates for the second subject, we are suddenly returned to the world
of the opening sunrise. The introduction itself reappears so frequently
throughout the movement beginning the exposition repeat, the development, the
recapitulation and the coda, that we belatedly realise that the movement’s
structure indeed consists of this contrast between the magic of the dawn and
the brightness of daylight.

This miraculous movement is followed by one of Haydn’s celebrated
Adagios, where all the sadness of life is compressed into a long, gentle
meditation of quiet, unostentatious beauty. The Minuet provides an immediate
and lively contrast with its insistent opening figure showing Haydn’s skill at
building a whole movement from the slenderest of material. The Trio springs out
on us out of the blue without a change of key plunging us into a folk dance
complete with bagpipe drone. The Finale is an exciting process of inevitable
but dramatic acceleration, which makes it important that the original tempo is
not set too fast otherwise the players end up in orbit.