Franz Joseph Haydn, HAYDN: String Quartets Op 76, Nos 1- 3

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A set of variations on the tune we know as “Deutschland über Alles.”

One of Haydn's works that does achieve Mozartean transcendence is the slow movement from his Quartet Op. 76, No. 3, a set of variations on a tune we know as “Deutschland über Alles” but which Haydn wrote as a hymn. Each instrument takes the tune in turn as the others weave new increasingly poignant counterpoints and harmonies around it; the end seems to lift off into some unearthly plane altogether. By contrast, the first quartet in this set, in G, is playful and earthy, while No. 2 in D minor is dark and almost glowering. The Kodaly Quartet, which has recorded all Haydn's quartets, gives a near-ideal performance, playing with firmness, grace, bounce, and the ability both to blend beautifully and to retain a transparency that lets every detail in every voice speak.