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String Quartet in D Minor Op.42

Haydn: String Quartet in D minor Op.42

Haydn† normally had his string quartet published in groups of three or six, but the solitary Quartet in D minor (possibly one of the three 'very short' quartets he mentioned in a letter he wrote to the Viennese publisher Artartia on 5th April 1784 in connection with a commission from Spain, but which otherwise do not seem to have been completed), printed as Op.42 by Hoffmeister in Vienna in 1785 or 1786, four years after the appearance of the six 'Russian' quartets, Op.33, and the one before the publication of the six 'Prussian' quartets, Op.50, is a unique exception. It is also a singularly terse, laconic work, unlike any other quartet that Haydn composed. It begins with an economical sonata-form Andante, for whose one big climax, a dozen bars before the end, the innocentemente of the superscription and the restrained character of the music up to this point have left us quite unprepared. This is followed by a minuscule Minuet in D with a hushed, imitative Trio in D minor, and an Adagio in B flat whose broad melodic line is its own raison d'Ítre. The finale is a fugal Presto in which economy is carried to its extreme limit.

© Robin Golding


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