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String Quartet in D Major Op.64 No.5

Haydn: String Quartet in D Op.5 No.5 ('The Lark')

Between 1787 and 1790 Haydn composed twelve string quartets (three each published as Op.54 and Op.55 in 1789, and six as Op.64 in 1791) for his friend Johann Tost who, from 1783 until early in 1788,  was principal second violin in Haydn's orchestra in the Esterházy household. In 1788 Tost went to Paris, where he became involved in some lucrative but rather shady dealings with the scores of two of Haydn's latest symphonies (No.88 in G and No.89 in F) with the publisher Jean-Georges Sieber, who issued the first six quartets, intended by Haydn as a single set, in two groups of three (the other six were published by Kozeluch in Vienna). Later, Tost returned to Austria, married a lady in Prince Nicolaus's I Esterházy's retinue, became established as a cloth merchant, and seems to have settled in Vienna in 1799. The fifth quartet in the Op.64 set takes its nickname from the soaring tune with which the first violin replies to the staccato chords played by the other instruments at the outset of the initial Allegro moderato, and which rounds the movement off, in supreme defiance of musical precedent, with a second recapitulation at the end. The innocent, song-like quality which this lovely theme gives the movement is cunningly set off by a very active development section. The Adagio must be counted among Haydn's most beautiful slow movements. The form is of extreme simplicity - exposition and ornamented reprise in A, separated by a short middle section in A minor - but no words can do justice to the eloquence of the first violin's almost uninterrupted melodic line. A robust, self-confident Minuet, enclosing a strange, chromatic Trio (in D minor) is followed by a dashing moto perpetuo finale, with a splendid fugal episode, also in D minor.

© Robin Golding

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