A sense of style: op. 20

With op. 20 the historical development of Haydn’s quartets reached its goal; and further progress is not progress in any historical sense, but simply the difference between one masterpiece and the next.

Tovey, ‘Haydn’ article in Cobbett

What happened to music in the gap between the end of the baroque [Bach] and the beginning of the classical [Haydn]?

The answer is (as ever!) a bit complicated. Several styles/movements, many of them closely related and sometimes seemingly interchangeable, had their moment of glory – rococo, galant, empfindsamer, sturm und drang, all these had, at one time or another, their distinguished musical adherents (you can listen to some of them by clicking in the jukebox below).

But, with the composition of the op. 20 quartets, Haydn had reached a point of ‘pivotal importance’ [Robbins Landon] not only in his own development but also in the creation of a music that was (with a little help from his friend Wolfgang Mozart and his pupil Ludwig Beethoven) to dominate musical thinking up to the present day– the Viennese classical style:

Op. 20 No. 5, f – 1. Moderato (exposition)
Haydn: The Complete String Quartets – Aeolian String Quartet
Aeolian String Quartet
Int. Release 27 Apr. 2009
22 CDs / Download
CD ADD 0289 478 1267 8 DX 22

Header image: Haydn playing string quartets


To view the score of Op. 20 Nos. 1 & 2 without downloading click below

Op. 20 No. 1
Op. 20 No. 2

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