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String Quartet in B-flat Op.76/4 'Sunrise'

Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)

Benz Quartet

Benz Quartet

Composer
Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Composition Year
1796-7
Work Movements
1. Allegro con spirito
2. Adagio
3. Menuet and Trio. Allegro
4. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
Artists
Benz Quartet (Patrick Rafter, Carla White [violins], David Kenny [viola], Aoife Burke [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Haydn's two trips to England in 1791 and 1794 gave the composer a new lease of life after his long years at the beck and call of the Esterhazy family. The sudden freedom, the stimulation of music-loving audiences and access to superb musicians had a galvanising effect on the ageing composer, who produced a dozen quartets, four keyboard sonatas, four Masses, ten symphonies and the oratorio, The Creation, in less than 10 years. It has been argued that Haydn was the only composing genius for whom the broad simplifying wisdom of old age presided over both the rebellious impetuosity of youth as well as the complex inventions of middle age all at the same time. We should perhaps note that this is the last completed set of quartets that Haydn wrote.

The nickname is self-explanatory as soon as you hear the magical introduction, music of sustained and glowing beauty that enters from nowhere and leads without a pause into the driving Allegro first subject. When the music modulates for the second subject, we are suddenly returned to the world of the opening sunrise. The introduction itself reappears so frequently throughout the movement beginning the exposition repeat, the development, the recapitulation and the coda, that we belatedly realise that the movement's structure indeed consists of this contrast between the magic of the dawn and the brightness of daylight.

This miraculous movement is followed by one of Haydn's celebrated Adagios, where all the sadness of life is compressed into a long, gentle meditation of quiet, unostentatious beauty. The Minuet provides an immediate and lively contrast with its insistent opening figure showing Haydn's skill at building a whole movement from the slenderest of material. The Trio springs out on us out of the blue without a change of key plunging us into a folk dance complete with bagpipe drone. The Finale is an exciting process of inevitable but dramatic acceleration, which makes it important that the original tempo is not set too fast otherwise the players end up in orbit.

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String Quartet in B-flat Op.76/4 'Sunrise'

Composer: Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Performance date: Saturday 7th July 2012
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Work Title String Quartet in B-flat Op.76/4 'Sunrise'
Composition Year 1796-7
Work Movements 1. Allegro con spirito
2. Adagio
3. Menuet and Trio. Allegro
4. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo
Artist(s) Benz Quartet (Patrick Rafter, Carla White [violins], David Kenny [viola], Aoife Burke [cello])
Performance Date Saturday 7th July 2012
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Young Musicians Platform
Duration 00:23:32
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Haydn's two trips to England in 1791 and 1794 gave the composer a new lease of life after his long years at the beck and call of the Esterhazy family. The sudden freedom, the stimulation of music-loving audiences and access to superb musicians had a galvanising effect on the ageing composer, who produced a dozen quartets, four keyboard sonatas, four Masses, ten symphonies and the oratorio, The Creation, in less than 10 years. It has been argued that Haydn was the only composing genius for whom the broad simplifying wisdom of old age presided over both the rebellious impetuosity of youth as well as the complex inventions of middle age all at the same time. We should perhaps note that this is the last completed set of quartets that Haydn wrote.

The nickname is self-explanatory as soon as you hear the magical introduction, music of sustained and glowing beauty that enters from nowhere and leads without a pause into the driving Allegro first subject. When the music modulates for the second subject, we are suddenly returned to the world of the opening sunrise. The introduction itself reappears so frequently throughout the movement beginning the exposition repeat, the development, the recapitulation and the coda, that we belatedly realise that the movement's structure indeed consists of this contrast between the magic of the dawn and the brightness of daylight.

This miraculous movement is followed by one of Haydn's celebrated Adagios, where all the sadness of life is compressed into a long, gentle meditation of quiet, unostentatious beauty. The Minuet provides an immediate and lively contrast with its insistent opening figure showing Haydn's skill at building a whole movement from the slenderest of material. The Trio springs out on us out of the blue without a change of key plunging us into a folk dance complete with bagpipe drone. The Finale is an exciting process of inevitable but dramatic acceleration, which makes it important that the original tempo is not set too fast otherwise the players end up in orbit.