Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 33

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: CRD
WORKS: String Quartets, Op. 33
PERFORMER: Coull Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CRD 34956 DDD
The Coull Quartet’s outstanding survey of Haydn’s six Op. 33 quartets offers treasures indeed. Here is Haydn playing par excellence — amiably bucolic, yet poised and compellingly reasoned. Slow movements are miraculously eloquent; first violinist Roger Coull’s imaginative cadenza, graciously operatic in manner, in the closing bars of the D minor Andante of No. 6, and tasteful embellishments of thematic reprises elsewhere, are admirable. The CRD recordings are attractively warm and spacious, and the Coull Quartet’s performances command unqualified admiration. The Salomon Quartet packages Haydn’s Opp. 54 and 55 works on individual Hyperion discs. Always persuasively stylish, their doctrinaire brusqueness and occasionally abrasive attack imparts uncommon zest and piquancy to these accounts. The quartets provoked Haydn’s anxiety when entrepreneur Johann Tost touted the scores around Parisian publishing houses in 1788. These recordings employ performance directions found in Longman and Broderip’s edition, issued in London in July 1789. In syntax and musical deportment, the performances reflect Haydn’s intentions plausibly, and are constantly engrossing.

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From the award-winning Carmina Quartet come pedantically clinical readings of the last three quartets dedicated to Count Joseph Erdody, completed in 1797 and published in Haydn’s Op. 76 set. The Carmina’s virtuosity is never at issue, and Denon’s recording is sensational, but interpretations are disappointingly inane. For winningly insightful versions of Haydn’s Op. 76, the Kodaly Quartet’s Naxos discs provide superior alternatives at around a third of the cost. Michael Jameson