Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet No.1, Op.1/1 in B flat, Hob. III/1 (La chasse, 1764)
String Quartet No.29, Op.33/5 in G, Hob. III/41 (1781) [17:45]
String Quartet No.66, Op.77/1 in G, Hob. III/81 (Lobkowitz, 1799)
Goldmund Quartet [Florian Schötz (violin I); Pinchas Adt (violin II);
Christoph Vandory (viola); Raphael Paratore (cello)]
rec. Gabrielkirche, Ismaning, Germany, 18-21 April, 2016. DDD.
Although Haydn is no longer credited with being the ‘father’ of the string
quartet or the symphony, it’s remarkable how well even his early essays in
these forms sound and the Goldmund Quartet give us a selection of three
quartets from his early, middle and late periods to demonstrate how well he
began yet how much his work developed with each incremental step. Those
looking for an introduction to Haydn’s quartets, perhaps having discovered
and enjoyed his symphonies, should find that this is what they were looking
Though its young members have worked together for some time, this is the
first recording to have been made by the Goldmund Quartet – not to be
confused with the Goldmund Trio: no relation – and it’s an auspicious
beginning which I enjoyed very much. They have the measure of Haydn from
all three periods and I hope to hear more of them in his and other music.
Naxos have a knack of discovering new talent and they are not afraid to
duplicate repertoire which they have already visited. They recorded a
complete series of the Haydn quartets from the Kodály Quartet many years
ago and that remains a benchmark among budget-price recordings. Their CD of
the three named quartets from the Op.76 set was the first Naxos CD that I
bought – in those days to be found among a motley collection in Woolworths
for £3.99. That remains available on 8.550129, made separately from their
complete Op.76 (8.550314 and 8.550315).
The Kodály Quartet recordings are also available as a complete set on 24
CDs for as little as £60, one of the best bargains in the catalogue
(8.502400). Unless you must have period-instrument performances these
remain my benchmarks.
The Goldmund Quartet never take Op.1/1 lightly, though they are
consistently faster than the Kodály Quartet, except in the second minuet,
where honours are about even. This easy-going five-movement work grew out
of the divertimento and serenata forms; the Goldmunds tend to
stress the former, the Kodály the latter, though I enjoyed hearing both,
especially as it’s some time since I visited Op.1.
There’s rather more bloom around the Goldmund Quartet. Though that’s
probably mainly due to the improvement in recording techniques between 1991
and 2016, not even the best tonmeister can add what isn’t there. The older
CD is better value, however, with four works (Op.1/1-4) and 75 minutes
playing time; even at budget price 56 minutes for the new CD is a trifle
The Hagen Quartet on DG at full price offer even less music, with Op.1/1
coupled with Op.64/5 and Op.74/3, a total of 55 minutes (4236222, stream,
Presto special CD
). Though their tempi match those of the Goldmund Quartet almost to the
second, they tend to sound a little hurried by comparison.
The Op.33 works are generally reckoned as marking the beginning of Haydn’s
mature quartet style and competition is very keen. My first choice for the
whole set would be the period-instrument Quatuor Mosaïques (Auvidis
Astrée/Naïve E8801, 2 CDs, stream or download only) and Cuarteto Casals
(Harmonia Mundi HMG502022/3, 2 CDs mid-price –
DL News 2014/11
). Among the many performances on modern instruments the Kodály Quartet are
again very reliable (8.550788 and 8.550789, with No.5 on the latter) and I
liked the London Haydn Quartet on a 2-for-1 set from Hyperion better than
some other reviewers (CDA67955 –
DL News 2013/12
where I inexplicably referred to them as the London Haydn Trio).
Cuarteto Casals adopt a very brisk approach to Op.33/5 – brisker in every
movement except the scherzo than the Goldmund Quartet, who match
them in that movement. The more incisive sound of the period instruments
lends itself well to these lively tempi. Quatuor Mosaïques, also on period
instruments, adopt a more leisurely approach throughout than either group.
At first, played immediately after Cuarteto Casals, their account of the
first movement sounds slightly ponderous – almost as if they were ignoring
the second part of the marking allegro assai – but their overall
interpretation is convincing and the set of all six Op.33 quartets is well
worth downloading from
in lossless sound for £8.79 (NO booklet). Subscribers can stream them, as
also can subscribers to
Naxos Music Library.
Against the two period performances the modern instruments of the Goldmund
Quartet sound less incisive but fuller in tone, which some may prefer. With
sensibly judged tempi this is building up to becoming an attractive
cross-section of Haydn’s string quartets.
By the time that he published the two Op.77 quartets in 1799 some of his
erstwhile student Beethoven’s Op.18 set, with its prefiguring of his later
great achievements in the form, were circulating, though not published
until 1801. Haydn’s six quartets of Op.76 had demonstrated a more profound
style but Op.77 go further: the master was not averse to vying with the
pupil, as the two sets of ‘London’ symphonies (1791-1795) demonstrate,
though the admiration was by this time far from mutual.
Once again it’s to the Quatuor Mosaïques that I turn for the two Op.77
quartets, coupled with the final fragmentary Op.103 on Naïve E8800 (stream
or download only). They find greater depth than the Goldmund Quartet in the adagio second movement of No.1 but there’s very little wrong with
the latter. The Kodály Quartet dig a little deeper still and their 1994
recording sounds fuller than their Op.1 from three years earlier. That
remains my budget-price preference, though at 51 minutes it’s even shorter
than the new CD. Typically on sale for around £8, Naxos CDs are no longer
quite the bargain that they once were, though you should be able to find
the older Kodály Quartet for a little over £6 and the new Goldmund Quartet
for under £7.
As well as Keith Anderson’s notes – perceptive, as always – the booklet
contains a discussion by the members of the quartet.
I make no apology for having mentioned the period-instrument Quatuor
Mosaïques frequently: their Haydn and Mozart recordings still seem to me to
get it right more often than any other. Unfortunately they are no longer
available on CD but several can be obtained as downloads very reasonably,
as in the case of the 5-CD set of Opp. 64, 76 and 77 available for £14.49
in mp3 from
(£18.49 for lossless). Alternatively subscribers can stream individual
albums and 2-CD sets from
Naxos Music Library
The Mosaïques in Haydn may be special but the new CD is also well worth
considering; it’s particularly recommended to those not yet familiar with
his string quartet output. With attractive performances and good recording,
however, it’s equally worthwhile for others.
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