Composer: Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Performance date: 01/07/2017
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1787
Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc
Instrumentation Category:String Quartet
Quatuor Zaïde (Charlotte Juillard [violin], Leslie Boulin Raulet [violin] Sarah Chenaf [viola] Juliette Salmona [cello]) -
worked in the service of Prince Nicholas of Esterhazy for twenty-four
years. It is not surprising that his relationship with the Prince
changed over that period. A crucial development was when Haydn
re-negotiated his contract in 1779. For the first time he was allowed
to publish and to accept outside commissions. He made full use of
this new freedom and his reputation throughout Europe increased
substantially as a result.
Prince Nicholas loved symphonies, operas and many other forms of
music, he was not interested in string quartets. It is not surprising
that Haydn composed comparatively few quartets at Esterhazy. Two of
the sets of quartets he did compose there (in his own time), Op.20 in
1772 and Op.33 in 1781, transformed the string quartet into a vehicle
for the expression of both the most intricate and involved musical
ideas and an astonishing range of emotion.
could be forgiven for feeling annoyed that his Op.20 quartets had
been published in many pirated editions from which he obtained no
financial benefit. In 1781 Haydn published his Op.33 quartets in
Vienna. When he published his Op.50 quartets in 1787, Haydn signed
exclusive contracts with publishers in both Vienna and London. Given
the state of copyright law at the time, this would have been a
sensible precaution. The important point is that there was now good
money for Haydn in string quartets. He would compose twelve more
quartets during his remaining three years at Esterhazy.
is thought to be the last of the six Op.50 quartets to be composed
and is regarded as the lightest of the set. It’s none the worse for
that. The tempo of the first movement is allegro
This is a return to Haydn’s normal practice. The opening theme has
two parts. In the first, the violins play a brief phrase together
twice. In the second, the two violins play two notes which are
answered by two notes from the viola and cello. And that’s it. Out
of the slenderest of materials, Haydn weaves a movement of pure
delight. In his earlier quartets, Haydn had worked very hard to make
the form his own. Following that achievement, he now composed with
great confidence. The result is wonderful.
slow movement is entitled ein
(a dream). It is not known whether Haydn or someone else added this
description. This brief movement begins with some delightful part
writing for all four instruments. The first violin then embellishes
the tune with semi-quavers. At various times all four instruments
join in the embellishments. The dream ends as softly as it began.
the final two movements Haydn shows off his skill with accidentals.
In the minuetto the turn plays an important role. In the final
movement, the main theme begins boisterously with trills as part of
the fun. This is followed by a charming use of una
where the first violinist slides up one string from note to note (now
often called glissando).
This gives a slightly woozy feel to the movement. It’s delightful
to hear a great composer simply enjoying himself as he does
throughout this smashing quartet.
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