One for the price of two

In the quartets opp. 54 & 55 – written for the leader of the second violins in the Eszterháza orchestra, Johann Tost – Haydn departed from his usual practice of publishing quartets in sets of six, reducing the number of individual works in each opus to just three. Of the two sets it’s op. 54 – particularly numbers 1 and 2 – that seems, if frequency of live performance is anything to go by, to be the more popular.

Op. 54 No. 2, C – 1. Vivace (exposition)
Haydn: String Quartets (complete) – Angeles String Quartet
Angeles String Quartet
Catalogue No:4646502
Series: Collectors Edition
Discs: 21

Another work we will consider, if only briefly, is op. 51,  The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour from the Cross. Why briefly? Simply because it wasn’t conceived as a string quartet. The piece consists of seven adagios framed by an introduction and a final terremoto (earthquake) (not too easy to conjure a terrifying earthquake with a string quartet!). It exists in four versions: orchestral (the original), for string quartet (arranged by Haydn), for chorus (also arranged by Haydn) and in the publisher Artaria’s piano version (sanctioned by Haydn) – you can listen to all four versions of No. 4 (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) below. As Robbins Landon puts it, the quartet arrangement…

‘was never intended to supplant the original version but to enable the work to be played by amateurs unable to marshal the large orchestra necessary for the full score’.


Header image: Opening theme, Op. 54, No. 2


To view the score of Op. 54 No. 2 without downloading click below

Op. 54 No. 2

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