Haydn: String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76/2 (Fifths); String Quartet in C, Op. 76/3 (Emperor); String Quartet in B flat, Op. 76/4 (Sunrise)

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76/2 (Fifths); String Quartet in C, Op. 76/3 (Emperor); String Quartet in B flat, Op. 76/4 (Sunrise)
PERFORMER: Alban Berg Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56166 2
These three ‘named’ works from Haydn’s Op. 76, his last complete set of string quartets, contain some of his most glorious music. They not only display his mastery of the genre he virtually invented, but show, too, his continuing relish for new challenges – evident in the ‘Fifths’, for example, when he transforms the minuet into a music of hard-driven menace. In contrast, the exquisite ‘Sunrise’ is suffused with joy, its ethereal Adagio touching on the sublime.

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The Alban Berg Quartet plays with a studied refinement that is beautifully attentive to the music’s subtleties but can also become a touch introverted. Yet its tempi for the minuets are brisk and incisive, making the otherwise excellent Kodály Quartet on Naxos sound leaden-footed. Graham Lock