This CD is not exactly what it appears to be:
none of these works form part of the accepted canon of Haydn’s
string quartets. The two Cassations are spurious arrangements
of authentic chamber works by Haydn. The two Op. 3 quartets are
now thought, by some Haydn scholars, to be by Peter Romanus Hoffstetter,
though there is no final agreement about this. They circulated
for two centuries as genuine works by Haydn, whose name appears
boldly on the front of the CD case. In fairness to Naxos this
is explained in a short note on the back of the case and in more
detail in the fascinating insert booklet. In Haydn’s day his immense
popularity attracted many forgeries. Questions of authenticity
aside, the immensely talented Kodály Quartet makes a convincing
case for regarding these works as more than musicological curiosities.
The Cassations (a somewhat vague term applied
in the early Classical period to pieces resembling a serenade
or divertimento) are clearly by Haydn. These are sunny,
accomplished works that reveal the composer’s developing interest
in Classical chamber music. They benefit from the vivacity the
Kodály Quartet gives them. Both have five movements, including
two minuets, and may have been written as late as 1760.
The more apocryphal so-called Op. 3 quartets
are equally intriguing. Hoffstetter’s quartets have been said
to have little stylistic similarity with Haydn’s, but their formal
structure is similar and I, for one, would not hazard a judgement.
I do not usually take much notice of blurbs on CD cases, but this
time I will. ‘These are elegant, neatly composed works with lively
outer movements, gentle, graceful slow movements and the kind
of lilting, intoxicating minuets that are such an integral part
of Austrian music of the Classical period’. Couldn’t have put
it better myself! Highly recommended to all but the ‘more authentic
than thou’ brigade.
See also review
by Donald Satz