BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber -

String Quar­tets, Op. 64 Nos 1-6

London Haydn Quar­tet

Hype­r­ion CDA68221 145:21 mins (2 discs) By far the most fa­mous among this great set of string quar­tets is the ‘Lark’

Op. 64 No. 5

– so called for the soar­ing vi­o­lin tune near its be­gin­ning. ★aydn com­posed these works in 1790, when his cir­cum­stances were rapidly chang­ing: Prince Niko­laus Ester­házy, his em­ployer for nearly 30 years, died that year, and ★aydn found him­self free to ply his trade else­where. The pop­u­lar cut of the ‘Lark’, with its hel­ter-skel­ter fi­nale,

shows his wish to now find a wider pub­lic even for his cham­ber mu­sic. Sev­eral of these quar­tets were ac­tu­ally per­formed dur­ing his first London visit in 1791-93.

More am­bigu­ous in tone than the ‘Lark’ is Op. 64’s sec­ond quar­tet, its cheer­ful open­ing un­ac­com­pa­nied vi­o­lin tune, seem­ingly in a bright D ma­jor, abruptly in­ter­rupted by a dra­matic chord from the re­main­ing play­ers which throws the mu­sic into its ac­tual, and much darker, key of B mi­nor. ★aydn’s tempo mark­ing for the move­ment is Al­le­gro spir­i­toso, but you’d never guess it from the London ★aydn Quar­tet’s lugubri­ous per­for­mance. It’s hard to know how the play­ers can have mis­judged the mu­sic’s char­ac­ter to such a de­gree. The drama and wit of ★aydn’s mu­sic are sorely lack­ing in these ac­counts as a whole, with only the presto fi­nales of the fourth and sixth quar­tets im­part­ing a feel­ing of gen­uine en­ergy. Else­where, lethar­gic tem­pos and se­ri­ously un­der­played dy­namic con­trasts make for a rather dispir­it­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Misha Donat PER­FOR­MANCE ★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

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