- String Quartets (6), Op. 9, H. 3/19-24
Though he had already produced works he called "diverimenti a Quattro" in his Opus 1 and 2, Haydn only really got serious about the string quartet genre 10 years later with his Opus 9, 17, and 20. The earlier works had been five movement, serenade-like pieces, but starting with Opus 9 the composer favored four-movement, sonata-form works that were lyric, dramatic, cogent, and entertaining and they became the model for all subsequent quartets. Yet only Opus 20 and, to a much lesser extent, Opus 17, have achieved standard-repertoire status. This 2007 Hyperion recording by London Haydn Quartet of the six Opus 9 quartets makes the case for the works with performances of rare beauty and great power. Played with classical bows on gut strings and performed from a historically informed perspective, the London Haydn Quartet respects the unity, diversity, and relative intensity of these works. Each separate movement is deftly characterized, from the singing Moderato that opens "Quartet No. 1" through the racing Presto that opens "Quartet No. 6," but the group also balances each work's movements so that every quartet forms a coherent whole. Beyond that, the London's interpretations honor the unique spirit of each work by granting each the appropriate degree of intensity. Compare the "Second Quartet"'s lithesome Adagio -- Cantabile with the "Fourth Quartet"'s melancholy Cantabile Adagio and note how the players' phrasing, accent, and emphasis change between the two. Recorded in clear, close but surprisingly reverberant sound, these recordings will please those who already know the works and interest those who don't.