About The Music

Dip into our programme notes for pieces presented by Music in the Round. Covering music that is forthcoming and has been recently performed, learn more about the works and also listen to brief extracts. 

About The Music: H

HAYDN Joseph, String Quartet Op.76 No.4 ‘Sunrise’

Allegro con spirito
Menuetto. Allegro
Finale. Allegro, ma non troppo

This quartet was nicknamed the ‘Sunrise’ on account of its opening idea, an ascending theme on the first violin, heard over sustained chords. It was completed in 1797, and published as the fourth in what was to be Haydn’s last set of six quartets. A strongly contrasting idea in semiquavers is punctuated by short, rhythmic chords. Throughout the movement, Haydn cuts between these two sharply characterized themes, often returning to the ‘sunrise’ idea in ingenious ways. For instance, quite near the start, the theme is heard on the cello, beneath long chords in the upper strings, and this time it heads in a new direction – descending rather than ascending. The variety of texture in this movement is a constant source of delight – a composer at the height of his powers in a genre which he had not only pioneered but also developed to new expressive heights. The slow movement is reflective and unusually free in terms of structure: here the fantasia-like form seems to emerge as a natural consequence of the musical ideas. The Minuet comes as a charming contrast, until the rather austere Trio section where the violins present a serpentine tune, full of chromatic twists, over a drone in the lower strings. The finale is based on a theme that resembles a folk-song, and it has been suggested Haydn may have discovered this tune during his second visit to London in 1795. For the most part, the mood of this movement is jovial apart from a darker central section where the tune is presented in B flat minor. The work ends back in the major, closing with two unusually full double- and triple-stopped chords.

Nigel Simeone © 2015

HAYDN Russian Quartet No.3 (extract for family concert)

Haydn was the composer who did most to first create a form of music for two violins, a viola and a cello: a group we know as a string quartet. This piece has the nickname ‘The Bird’ — can you hear why?


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