Young Ensemble Rise To ‘Sun’ Quartets

London Haydn Quartet capture the urbane wit and complex intelligence of Vienna’s first superstar.

Composer: Haydn
Repertoire: ‘Sun’ String Quartets, Op.20
Artists: London Haydn Quartet
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Chamber
Label: Hyperion CDA67877

The Music: Haydn’s six Op.20 String Quartets were written in the productive year 1772 and called the ‘Sun’ after the publisher Hummel’s trademark. Beethoven modelled his Op.18 set on them and Brahms possessed the manuscript. Two of the set are in minor keys, matching the celebrated minor storm-and- stress symphonies of that year. Three of them have fugue finales.

The Performance: The young ensemble plays on authentic gut strings with classical bows. Their thin, supple tone brings out Haydn’s melodic line. They play identical repeats to each first movement exposition, making emphatic the shape of the then new sonata form. They give a Baroque flavour to No.2 with its Handelian melody and dark Adagio. The minor home key of No.3 yields their most emotional playing. No.4’s angular eccentricities appeal to their sense of humour as they clump out the Minuet’s sforzandi. The fugues unleash their exuberance and dash.

The Verdict: The commitment of this string quartet to one composer pays off. Their wiry, period tone suits Haydn’s melodious, down-to-earth writing.

Want More? Look no further than the London Haydn Quartet’s earlier Haydn discs on Hyperion (CDA 67611 and CDA 67722). Rick Jones