M. Haydn: String Quintets / L'Archibudelli

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It is often supposed that the string quintet as a genre was created by Mozart, but in fact there are plenty of examples by other composers before him, both in Salzburg and Vienna. Among the Salzburgers, Michael Haydn was of course pre-eminent. Two of the quintets recorded here were written in 1773—that is, immediately before Mozart wrote his own first quintet, K174; the date of the third, the B flat work, is uncertain but not likely to be much different. These works are listed in some sources as divertimentos or notturnos rather than as true music for the chamber and in fact the one in B flat is in six movements, with a march, like the Mozart divertimentos of the time. Whether the lowest part should be played on a cello, as it is here, or a double-bass, as indicated in some sources (that was the normal practice in Salzburg), is doubtful, but in any case unimportant. What is important is that they are really fine pieces, comparable on every level with the music of Michael's Salzburg colleague and his Esterhazy brother.

The B flat work is full of attractive and amiable invention, and the variation movement carries it to a higher plane, with a slow penultimate variation of real depth and poignancy with almost operatic dialogue between the first viola and first violin (no doubt Mozart remembered it, consciously or otherwise, when composing his K515 slow movement). No less fine is the Adagio cantabile of the C major work, with a viola melody above pizzicato accompaniments and comments and echoes from the violin (with the roles later reversed): music that is both delectable and profoundly felt. The perpetuum mobile finale here, with some nice touches of counterpoint, is another delight, both brilliant and amusing, and it has echoes in Mozart's K174. The last of the quintets here, in G, begins just like a mature Joseph Haydn string quartet and is as closely and as wittily argued; its slow movement is again of considerable intensity (hints here of Mozart's much later Kleine Nachtmusik) and its final Presto will strike the listener as distinctly 'Mozartian' with its chromaticisms and its contrapuntal interest. A very appealing disc, finely and sensitively played, and full of sympathetic and musicianly touches, especially in the slow movements.

-- Stanley Sadie, Gramophone [8/1994]

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 27, 2008

  • Catalog Number: SONY53987

  • UPC: 074645398723

  • Label: Sony

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Michael Haydn

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: L'Archibudelli

  • Performer: Anner Bylsma, Guus Jeukendrup, Jürgen Kussmaul, Lucy Van Dael, Vera Beths