HAYDN Joseph, String Quartet in D Op.64, No.5 ‘Lark’
It was the soaring violin theme at the start of the first movement which gave this quartet its nickname, in a movement which wears its learning lightly, transforming the main melody in inventive ways right up to its final appearance. The hymn-like Adagio cantabile (with a contrasting minor-key central section) is followed by a Minuet which combines the feeling of a rustic dance with sophisticated motivic development. The finale is an exciting virtuoso display with almost continuous activity, but also some ingenious elements of contrast (such as the passage where the rushing main idea is treated fugally).
Composed in 1790, Haydn’s Op.64 quartets were the earliest to receive their premieres at public concerts rather than at intimate gatherings of connoisseurs, and the finale of The Lark must have electrified its large audience – and delighted the composer himself: at the invitation of Johann Peter Salomon, Haydn arrived in England on New Year’s Day 1791 and remained there for the next 18 months. When the Quartets were published by the London firm of John Bland in June 1791, the title page announced that they had been ’composed by Giuseppe Haydn and perform’d under his direction at Mr Salomon’s concert, the Festino Rooms, Hanover Square’.
© Nigel Simeone