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Haydn: String Quartets Op. 20, Nos. 1- 3, 'Sun Quartets'

Haydn: String Quartets Op. 20, Nos. 1- 3, 'Sun Quartets'

26 Nov 1993

£7.49 (VAT included if applicable)

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 26 Nov 1993
  • Label: Naxos
  • Copyright: (C) 1993 Naxos
  • Total Length: 1:12:11
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001LZZTIG
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,180 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Jun 2010
Format: Audio CD
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)probably did more than any other composer to shape the symphony and the string quartet into the forms that became essential to subsequent Western music. In his more than 80 quartets, Haydn developed the form from various forms of light musical diversions to the most weighty form of chamber music -- or of all art music. In Haydn's quartets, the instruments speak to and with each other, sometimes seriously sometimes humorously, in an intimate conversation of part-writing that both shows the string quartet in full development and also prepares the way for quartets by later composers.

The Kodaly quartet, the performers here, are Hungarian musicians who have been playing as a unit since 1970. They have recorded all the Haydn quartets for the budget-priced Naxos label. They do an outstanding job on this music, and the low price should encourage listeners to explore these quartets. Haydn remains an undervalued composer and has unjustifiably remained in the shadow of Mozart and his great pupil, Beethoven.

The quartets are available in a complete set Haydn: Complete String Quartets or on a disk-by-disk basis. I much prefer the later approach as I find it encourages me to spend more time with each individual work. In addition, it allows for the anticipation of fresh discovery as I get the opportunity to explore additional quartets.

This disk includes the first three of the quartets that Haydn published as a set of six in 1772. They are known as the "Sun" quartets because of the sun that appeared on the fronticepage of the first edition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon on 10 Oct 2014
Format: Audio CD
Those among us who have sold a Naxos disc to a second-hand dealer will know what a degrading experience it is. One can never argue for a higher price. At such times, whatever our names actually are, we should be addressed as `Benjamin Dover' or `Phillip McCrackin'. It's less dispiriting to give them away or use them as frisbees.

I bought these two CDs when they first came out in 1995. Shylock has them now. Thruppence came my way and I am much the wiser, albeit somewhat sore in the sewage pipe.

I'm a big fan of both the Kodaly Quartet (in Haydn) and the Sun Quartets themselves. Their survey of Opus 20 is the one failure of the set. It's devoid of magic. I do not know whether the players or the sound-engineers were to blame - the poxy sound points to the latter - but the bottom-line remains immutable: it's Naxos at its most pedestrian. The Penguin Guide was being generous when it awarded 'two stars' to these discs.

Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 20 is bedecked with international awards and rightly so. It's an astounding achievement - and nowadays it is so much cheaper than what yours truly paid back in 1994. Prominent reviewers (on Amazon.com) who loftily dismiss their account as "trippingly galante divertissements" - whatever this means - should check their own ears for excessive wax and/or hair. A back-burn of the latter might be required.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Discovering the Haydn Quartets on Naxos 6 Feb 2004
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)probably did more than any other composer to shape the symphony and the string quartet into the forms that became essential to subsequent Western music. In his more than 80 quartets, Haydn developed the form from various forms of light musical diversions to the most weighty form of chamber music -- or of all art music. In Haydn's quartets, the instruments speak to and with each other, sometimes seriously sometimes humorously, in an intimate conversation of part-writing that both shows the string quartet in full development and also prepares the way for quartets by later composers.
The Kodaly quartet, the performers here, are Hungarian musicians who have been playing as a unit since 1970. They have recorded all the Haydn quartets for the budget-priced Naxos label. They do an outstanding job on this music, and the low price should encourage listeners to explore these quartets. Haydn remains an undervalued composer and has unjustifiably remained in the shadow of Mozart and his great pupil, Beethoven.
The quartets are available in one large collection or on a disk-by-disk basis. I much prefer the later approach as I find it encourages me to spend more time with each individual work. In addition, it allows for the anticipation of fresh discovery as I get the opportunity to explore additional quartets.
This disk includes the first three of the quartets that Haydn published as a set of six in 1772. They are known as the "Sun" quartets because of the sun that appeared on the fronticepage of the first edition.
These three quartets are all serious and elevated in tone -- with little of the humor that is sometimes a Haydn feature. Each of the quartets has as a highpoint a long, expressive slow movement. Those unfamiliar with Haydn may be surprised at the depth he shows in his adagios.
The third quartet in particular, the quartet in G. minor, is unusual in that the slow movement, the third movement marked "poco adagio" is over ten minutes in length, far in excess of the opening allegro (six minutes). The movement opens with the four voices playing together a slow theme in the major, followed by a statement in the violins over a countertheme in the cello The theme ultimately broadens out with solo passages for each instrument, with the main theme stated finally by the violin and cello. The thematic development of this movement is stated twice in its entirety.
The remaining three movements of the third quartet are predominantly in the minor, although the quartet closes quietly in G major. The first movement features a brusque minor theme and a trilled figure in the upper strings. The second movement minuet also features a minor opening and contrasting themes for the first violin in the movement proper and in the trio. The final movement is a rondo with a minor theme and episodes in the major key.
The first two quartets of opus 20 are in E-flat major and C major. I found these quartets marked by their tranquil, serene, and intimate character. The E-flat quartet creates this mood at the outset with an opening, moderately fast theme followed by a slower second theme. There is close and intricate part-writing and voice leading throughout this fine quartet. The minuet features solo passages for the first violin and thematic material that alternates between the major and minor key. The third movement marked "affetuoso e sostenudo" is another beautiful slow movement. The final movement is lively with contrasting writing for the violins and the lower strings.
The second quartet, in C-major also conveys a feeling of serenity. Its opening movement features a theme first stated in the cello. The second movement is marked "Cappricio:adagio". It is in two sections, with the second much slower than the first. The passages for solo instruments in this movement are juxtaposed against passages in which the quartet plays together, and there is much solo writing for the cello. The third movement is a minuet, much faster than the second movement with a slower, smoother trio. There are passages for the upper register of the violin and for the solo cello in the trio. The final movement is a spirited but hardly boisterous fugue which shows Haydn's great skill in contrapuntal writing.
In listening to this disk, I imagined myself in a music room or intimate hall sharing in the joy of music-making. Although these quartets were written relatively early in Haydn's quartet-writing career, they show an awareness of the potentialities of the string quartet. These quartets are wonderful and accessible. The listener wishing to explore Haydn's quartets will enjoy this disk and other disk's in the Kodaly's cycle of Haydn quartets.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Understated music of the gods 27 Dec 2006
By Mr. Hasta Pasta - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Surely the string quartet is the King of Musical Art Forms, and Haydn's achievements in this form that he nutured and pioneered has never been surpassed, and obviously never can be. Though I'm not aware of the circumstances under which his so-called "Thirty Famous Quartets" were selected, the fact that the first three quartets of op. 20, which are recorded here by the Kodalys, weren't included in the bunch seems to be evidence that the selection process was arbitrary and perhaps even fatuous, for Opus 20 contains some of Haydn's very greatest music. Was the Famous Thirty, I wonder, little more than a publisher's grab bag from the embarrassment of riches of Haydn's compositions? The first quartet of the opus (E flat major) for example, is one of the most sublime, artless, and achingly beautiful creations not only in Haydn's output, but in all of music. How can it be that something so great could have been relegated to the status of a second-class citizen for so many years? Every one of Mozart's ten great string quartets (he also wrote 13 clunkers) are performed and recorded with awesome regularly; Ditto Beethoven's 16 great ones. Why not Haydn's?

Well, one reason is that Haydn produced so many more great works than his compatriots in the "First Viennese School" in this sublime, arduous form that it confused people. The other reason can be found in the fact that for many if not most classical music listeners, Haydn has never quite been given his due regard as one of the three or four greatest composers in history (and quite possibly, along with Bach, one of the two greatest). This is a shame that I think should be rectified, and the only way to do that, really, is to LISTEN.

Anyway, the six masterpieces that comprise the so-called Sun Quartets are a revolutionary attainment, at least as important as Beethoven's five "late" quartets, where Haydn finally throws off the vestigial artistic shackles of the divertimento and therefore, after much hard work, devises the classical string quartet in its undying glory. In comparison composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, Debussy, Ravel, Shostakovich, Bartok, Berg, and Schoenberg, though all undeniably great quartet writers, are second-tier next to Haydn. As a listener, I'm no conservative, and it took me about twenty years of obsessive listening to classical music to realize this, but I'm glad I finally did.

For those uncertain about Haydn as a quartet composer, short of venturing to the library, the Kodalys on Naxos is as painless and inexpensive a way to start, and features some very fine performances. I would suggest by starting out with the two CDs that constitute Opus 20, and the two that constitute Opus 76. That's twelve works of sublime, profoundly moving, deathless music for under forty bucks! Or heck, pick one or two of the four CDs! Listen with open ears and it's quite possible you will want to acquire all of the recordings of the Kodalys of Haydn's unsurpassable masterpieces.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding 23 April 2002
By "stonechat" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Don't agree with the other reviewer (SJT). These are beautiful works beautifully performed, my favorite Haydn: serious and quiet music. The melody of the 2nd movement of No. 25 is genius, in my view. I have Op. 76 too, which I also like, though not quite as much as these. In this vein, allow me also to recommend the Boccherini quintets played by Ensemble 415 on Harmonia Mundi: one disc of quintets with two violas, the other of quintets with double bass, both at near-Naxos price.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Blue Ribbon! Best of Show! 23 Jun 2010
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I've been compulsively listening and relistening to recordings of Haydn's quartets by various ensembles, some from my own collection and some borrowed, ever since I rashly/discreetly bought the Naxos 25-CD box of The Complete Haydn String Quartets, all performed by the Kodaly Quartet. This recording of quartets 1-3 and its partner 4-6 are included in that box. Overall, I've found that the Kodaly Quartet is invariably highly professional and polished, but not always energized. The 'box' is a great buy, but if you are a Haydn aficionado, you won't be satisfied with every disk, but you'll love opus 20.

On the six quartets of Haydn's Opus 20, composed in 1772, The Kodaly Four seem to have found exactly the musico-ecological niche for which they are perfectly adapted. They are robustly serious, as is the music. These quartets were Haydn's first to use fugue-and-counterfugue to give 'weight' to the fourth movements of the quartet form, a successful device to balance the expanded complexity of his first movements. Critics have long considered them the earliest "fully mature" examples of the Viennese Classical style; listening to them, it's easy to imagine that the young Mozart might have found them inspirational. I have other recordings of some of them, but the Kodalys please me the most. The Emerson Quartet plays one of the six on its CD "The Haydn Project", but they smudge its perfection with excess vibrato and overripe timbres. The Quattuor Mosaiques, usually among the finest interpreters of Haydn, inexplicably put their wigs and livery on for opus 20 and play the six quartets as trippingly galante divertissements. The Salomon Quartet plays the set on 'period' instruments with gut strings, a choice I usually favor, but with insufficient eclat.

For a more ample discussion of this monument of chamber music, see the earlier review posted here by Robin Friedman.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Runts of the Litter 20 Jan 2012
By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon - Published on Amazon.com
Those among us who have sold a Naxos disc to a second-hand dealer will know what a degrading experience it is. One can never argue for a higher price. At such times, whatever our names actually are, we should be addressed as `Benjamin Dover' or `Phillip McCrackin'. It's less dispiriting to give them away or use them as frisbees.

I bought these two CDs when they first came out in 1995. Shylock has them now. Thruppence came my way and I am much the wiser, albeit somewhat sore in the sewage pipe.

I'm a big fan of both the Kodaly Quartet (in Haydn) and the Sun Quartets themselves. Their survey of Opus 20 is the one failure of the set. It's devoid of magic. I do not know whether the players or the sound-engineers were to blame - the poxy sound points to the latter - but the bottom-line remains immutable: it's Naxos at its most pedestrian. The Penguin Guide was being generous when it awarded 'two stars' to these discs.

Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 20 is bedecked with international awards and rightly so. It's an astounding achievement - and nowadays it is so much cheaper than what yours truly paid back in 1994. Prominent reviewers (on Amazon.com) who loftily dismiss their account as "trippingly galante divertissements" - whatever this means - should check their own ears for excessive wax and/or hair. A back-burn of the latter might be required.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know