Haydns remarkable Opus 20 quartets are rightfully regarded as landmarks in the history of the string quartet. Throughout the six contrasting quartets the composer employs compositional techniques that were to shape and define the genre. We witness a deviation in style from the lightness and wit of his previous quartets to a mood of emotional intensity and darker musical imagery. The six Opus 20 works are all individually exquisite masterpieces and demonstrate a composer at the height of creative maturity. They display an astonishing consistency of excellence and a huge variety of form and style, contrasting dynamics and relentless energy. Increasingly polyphonic textures are infused with a sense of drama, and the cello is often freed from its basso continuo roots to a position of prominence. The London Haydn Quartet is the ideal advocate for these works and gives elegant, radiant and exhilaratingly assured performances.
The London Haydn Quartet are working their way through their eponymous composer's string quartets slowly and chronologically; Hyperion released the Op 9 set in 2007, while those of Op 17 came out two years ago. It's with the six quartets of Op 20, composed in the early 1770s, though, that the LHQ begin to tackle the core quartet repertory. Using gut strings, classical bows and a bare minimum of vibrato, and making a point of using the Artaria edition of the works that Haydn himself supervised for publication in 1801, their performances often seem strikingly austere, and will not be to all tastes; they sometimes have a rawness that harks back to the early hair-shirt days of the period-instrument movement. In the faster music, that edge to the sound gives the performances extra bite.*** --Guardian,01/09/11
The commitment of this string quartet to one composer pays off.Their wiry,period tone suits Haydn's melodius,down-to-earth writing.They capture the urbane wit and complex intelligence of Vienna's first superstar. **** --Classic fm Magazine,Nov'11
Haydn's last thoughts on his 'Sun' Quartets in provocative performances. --Gramophone awards issue '11
The almost vibrato-less playing is immaculate in intonation and subtly responsive to shifts and contrasts of Haydn's invention. Performance *** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine,Dec'11
Critics Choice 2011 --Gramophone,Dec'11