The Goldmund Quartet perform Haydn’s String Quartets in B flat, Op. 1/1; in G, Op. 33/ 5; in G, Op. 77/ 1

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn
WORKS: String Quartets in B flat, Op. 1/1; in G, Op. 33/ 5; in G, Op. 77/ 1
PERFORMER: Goldmund Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573701

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This release rather neatly encapsulates Haydn’s far-reaching development as the ‘father’ of the string quartet. He was still an impecunious Viennese freelance in his mid twenties when he wrote his first, divertimento-like set in the 1750s, yet the five brief movements of Op. 1 No. 1 already have a bright liveliness of invention, with something more sustained in the central Adagio. By 1780, when he composed Op. 33 No. 1, his name had become a by-word for originality throughout Europe, epitomised by the way the opening movement begins with its ending. And in Op. 77 No. 1, his second-to last-completed quartet from 1799, the mature composer reviews his mastery in spacious forms and richly-worked textures, while hinting, in the almost Beethovenian trio of his scherzo, at still further innovations to come.

Maybe the programme’s impact is slightly qualified by the choice of two quartets in the same key, but it is quite beautifully performed. Three of the four young players of the Goldmund Quartet were already playing chamber music together in their Munich schooldays, and their rapport tells in the unanimity, balance and radiance of their articulation and sound, while their wide variation of nuance, colour and vibrato suggests a searching musicality. Perhaps a certain depth escapes them as yet – there are slower, more gravely intense accounts of the aria-like Largo of Op. 33 No. 5 – but this will surely come. The church recording is incisive and full without undue resonance.

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Bayan Northcott