Haydn
String Quartet in G, Op.76/1
String Quartet in D, Op.20/4
String Quartet in D, Op.64/5 (The Lark)
String Quartet in D minor, Op.103 [incomplete; movements ii & iii only]

“Hin ist alle meine Kraft; alt und schwach bin ich”
Endellion String Quartet [Andrew Watkinson & Ralph de Souza (violins), Garfield Jackson (viola) & David Waterman (cello)]

Recorded 19-22 July 2012 in Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, Wales, UK
CD No: WARNER CLASSICS
2564 65720-7
Duration: 74 minutes
Reviewed: January 2013
Joseph Haydn, the begetter and the master of the string quartet genre, is here represented by one example from three such collections. The first example of Opus 76 is as sophisticated and as inventive as anything the great composer wrote. Add a twinkle in the eye for the first movement, something that the Endellion members supply in goodly measure, and we are in happy land, relishing the music’s wit and swing. By contrast, the slow movement offers depth and solace and is solemnly undertaken by the musicians to profound effect. The following Minuet, in reality a scherzo, with tantalising sleights of rhythm, so too in the trio, once again confirms that Haydn never wrote the same movement twice, after which the finale’s sternness comes as a shock, a serious and searching conclusion, delivered here with concentration, and then comes one of Haydn’s delicious surprises...
The D major work from Opus 20 begins in speculative fashion before darting exchanges between the instruments. The rather sad slow movement, sensitively realised here, brings yet another side to Haydn’s range and genius. The succeeding Minuet is quite terpsichorean, if not of the court, for its Allegretto marking is extended with alla zingarese. The finale is terrifically impulsive as well as delightfully unpredictable. ‘The Lark’ (not nicknamed thus by Haydn and relating to the high-lying birdsong-like violin writing) opens in urbane fashion with a spring to the step; all is well with the world. The slow movement sings with warmth and also touches the heart; the Minuet has vitality and the brief finale moves along in a sweep of semiquavers and fugal fortitude. (‘The Lark’ would be an ideal introduction to anyone unfamiliar with Haydn’s string quartets.)
To round off this excellent release, we have the middle movements of Haydn’s left-incomplete D minor String Quartet, the Andante grazioso self-assured in its simplicity, the Minuet quite gruff and heavily accented, the Trio more mellifluous. As for the final track, Haydn’s “farewell message appended to Op.103” – ten words in German (translated as “Gone is all my strength; weak and old am I”) yielding twelve syllables, each given a separate note, played here on violin, no doubt by Andrew Watkinson. Unusual and poignant.
The recording, although very clear and in good balance, is just a little elephantine at times in relation to the intimacy of the music, something cosier and less edgy is needed. Nevertheless the music is stellar and the long-established Endellion Quartet brings it alive with considerable artistry, insight and interaction.

 

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