Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 3/3, 4, 5, 6

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WORKS: String Quartets, Op. 3/3, 4, 5, 6
PERFORMER: Kodály Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555704
In his old age, Haydn happily accepted the six works of Op. 3 as his own in the complete edition of his quartets. And no one doubted they were by him until in 1964 the name Signor Hofstetter – the Benedictine monk Pater Romanus Hoffstetter – was discovered concealed behind Haydn’s in the first edition of two of the quartets (Nos 1 and 2). Scholars understandably jumped to the conclusion that the works were all by Hoffstetter. But the evidence is far from watertight; and today the jury is out on the authorship of the quartets, especially of Nos 3-5 recorded here. If they don’t always sound like early Haydn, they still stand up well in the company of his genuine early quartets. The popular Serenade from No. 5 remains a paragon of guileless rococo charm. Nos 3 and 6 have graceful, aria-style slow movements. And the lilting minuets – especially the one in No. 6, based on ear-tickling alternations of pizzicato and arco – and scherzando finales display something of the young Haydn’s earthiness and sense of fun. In this appendix to its complete Haydn edition the Kodály gives typically honest, slightly old-fashioned performances. Presto finales are a tad sober, and I could have done with more fantasy from the leader in the slow movements. But phrasing is always thoughtful, blend and intonation first-rate. Whether these innocently tuneful quartets are by Haydn, Hoffstetter or someone else entirely, they offer an hour’s innocent enjoyment for anyone who invests a fiver in this disc. Richard Wigmore