Magazine article Gramophone

Haydn: String Quartets

Magazine article Gramophone

Haydn: String Quartets

Article excerpt


String Quartets, 'Sun', Op 20--No 4; No 5; No 6

Chiaroscuro Quartet

BIS (F) [SACD] BIS2168 (75' * DDD/DSD)

The 40-year-old Haydn seems to have conceived his Op 20 quartets as a showcase for his newly won technical and expressive virtuosity in the medium he made his own. Endlessly unpredictable in topic and texture, these three works alone range from the gypsy antics of No 4's Minuet and finale, via the pathos and contrapuntal cerebration of No 5, to the al fresco exuberance of No 6's opening Allegro. As on their disc of Nos 1-3 (A/16), the cosmopolitan Chiaroscuro Quartet, playing on gut strings with minimal vibrato, combine refined ensemble and intonation with an audible delight in the music's richness and inspired subversiveness. Like all the best Haydn players, including the two period-instrument quartets listed below, they are constantly prepared to be surprised by the composer's teeming invention.

If you know these works well, you may initially raise an eyebrow at some of the Chiaroscuro's interpretative choices. Haydn marks the first movement of No 6 Allegro di molto e scherzando, though you'd barely guess it from a performance in which whimsy and delicacy rule over scherzando high spirits. The robustly sinewy Mosaiques and the fleet, mercurial London Haydn Quartet inhabit a different world here. From its secretive opening, with the four players sounding like a viol consort, the Allegro di molto first movement of No 4 is also unusually flexibile and innig. …

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