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String Quartet in D Major Op.76 No.5

Haydn: String Quartet in D Op.76 No.5

Haydn began his six Op.76 quartets shortly after his return to Vienna in August 1795, following the second of his two triumphant visits to England; they were published by Artartia in 1799, in two groups of three, and dedicated to Count Joseph Erdödy. When Dr.Charles Burney heard them for the first time, in 1799, he wrote to Haydn saying that he had 'never received more pleasure from instrumental music', adding 'they are full of invention, fire, good taste, and new effects, and seem the production, not of a sublime genius who has written so much and so well already, but of one of highly-cultivated talents, who had expended none of his fire before'. The fifth quartet in the collection begins, exceptionally, with a set of rather unorthodox variations. The theme is a complex one in the lilting 6/8 rhythm of a siciliano, and extends over 28 bars without the conventional repeats; the first variation (begun by the cello) is in D minor and, in its later stages, very free and impassioned; the third, back in D, maintains the original tempo (Allegretto) for 18 bars, before changing to a brisk Allegro, which forms an extended coda. The slow movement is a justly celebrated Largo in the bright, remote key of F sharp and in sonata form. It is notable both for the luxuriance of its harmonies and modulations and for the perceptiveness of Haydn's writing for the two lower instruments. Next comes a glowing Minuet, framing a mysterious, rumbling Trio (in D minor), and a brilliant and witty (it begins with a cadence!) sonata-form finale that has all the exuberance of a rollicking dance played by a group of village musicians.

© Robin Golding

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