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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartets Op. 2, Nos. 3 and 5, Op. 3, Nos. 1 and 2
Cassation in E flat major Op. 2 No. 3 (arr for string quartet) [16.31]
Cassation in D major Op. 2 No. 5 (arr. for string quartet) [14.01]
String Quartet in E major Op. 3 No. 1 [13.09]
String Quartet in C major Op. 3 No. 2 [18.06]
Kodály Quartet: Attila Falvay (violin); Tamás Szabó (violin); János Fejérvári (viola); György Éder (cello)
Recorded at the Phoenix Studio, Budapest, June 2000
NAXOS 8.555703 [71.47]

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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.

Roy Brewer

See also review by Donald Satz



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