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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 74, Nos. 1- 3
Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Apponyi Quartets Nos. 4 - 6 (Op. 74, Nos.
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of
Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St.
Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he
could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn
from the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's first
appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von
Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of
the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, who was succeeded,
on his death in 1762, by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of
the elderly and sometimes obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn
succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment for the rest of his
On the completion of the magnificent
palace at Esterháza, in the Hungarian plains, under Prince Nikolaus, Haydn
assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he had
responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included the
provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and
music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of
all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790,
Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music
for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second
successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty
with the Esterházy family, the new head of which had settled principally at the
family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the
year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years,
dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
Haydn lived during the period of the 18th
century that saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach and
Handel to the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite form, the basis
of much instrumental composition. The string quartet itself, which came to
represent classical music, in its purest form, grew from a genre that was
relatively insignificant, at least in its nomenclature, the Divertimento into
music of greater weight, substance and complexity, although Haydn, like any
great master, knew well how to conceal the technical means by which he achieved
his ends. The exact number of string quartets that Haydn wrote is not known,
although he listed some 83. The earlier of these, often under the title
Divertimento, proclaim their origin and purpose.
The so-called Apponyi Quartets
were written in 1793 and dedicated to a nobleman, Count Anton Georg Apponyi,
who was a member of the circle dominated by Baron van Swieten, the Gesellschaft
der Associirten, which fostered interest in the music of J. S. Bach and Handel.
It was Apponyi who in 1795 invited Beethoven to try his hand at a string
quartet, an attempt that had to wait a few years.
The string quartet was traditionally, in
Vienna, a private form of music, not designed for the concert hall, where such
buildings existed, During Haydn's first visit to London, however, his Opus 64
quartets had been performed at the concerts organised for him by Salomon. As
Robbins Landon has pointed out in his magisterial work on the composer, the Apponyi
Quartets were Intended for public concert performance, and. are, therefore,
markedly different in character from other quartets by Haydn, Mozart or
Beethoven. They were performed at the concerts in the Hanover Square, it seems,
during the 1794 London season by Salomon, with two members of the Dutch Dahmen
family playing second violin and cello and the Italian Federigo Fiorillo
The fourth Apponyi Quartet, Opus 74
No.1 in C major, is introduced by two chords, followed at once by the
chromatic principal theme. which forms the basis of a monothematic movement.
The gentle lilt of the G major slow movement, leads to a Minuet and Trio that
recall in thematic outline the first movement and then to a brilliant final
movement with a subtle admixture of counterpoint and a clear debt to earlier
The Quartet in F major, Opus 74 No.2,
has an emphatic and unanimous introduction from all four instruments, before
the related principal theme is announced by the first violin. The viola leads
the way to what nearly seems a contrasted second subject, but is in fact a counterpoint
to the principal melody, to be developed in a relatively extended central
section. The slow movement is a set of variations in B flat, followed by a
scherzo of a Minuet and a Trio in the unexpected key of D flat. The quartet
ends with a movement of considerable melodic invention and harmonic contrast in
which the first violin is given full scope for virtuosity.
The last of the Apponyi Quartets, Opus
74 No.3 in G minor, is popularly known as The Rider or The
Horseman, for reasons immediately apparent. The unanimous opening is
followed by a pause, after which the instruments return in imitation, one by
one, with the first subject proper, to which a lilting second subject later
offers a contrast. The heart of the quartet is the E major slow movement, with
its own central E minor section. The Minuet and Trio are followed by a final
movement of dynamic contrast and variety, leading to a G major conclusion.
The members of the Kodály Quartet were
trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second
violin Tamás Szabo, viola-player Gábor Fias and cellist János Devich, were
formerly in the Sebestyén Quartet, which was awarded the jury's special diploma
at the 1966 Geneva International Quartet Competition and won first prize at the
1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest Since 1970, with the violinist
Attila Falvay, the quartet has been known as the Kodály Quartet, a title
adopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education.
The Kodály Quartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in the Soviet Union
and in Japan, in addition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concert
hall and on television.
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HAYDN: String Quartets Op. 74, Nos. 1- 3