Work: Quartet for Strings in D minor, Op. 76 no 2/H 3 no 76 "Quinten"
About This Work
This quartet takes its primary nickname, "Fifths," from the dramatic falling intervals with which the first violin announces itself in the opening bars, a motif that Haydn will work obsessively and powerfully through the course of the
Allegro -- the intervals of fifths sometimes falling but also sometimes rising. This is music of sharp, dramatic contrasts, now urgent and then fairly easygoing, with the development section frequently shifting big chords off the expected beat and even bringing everything to momentary halts.
There could hardly be greater contrast than with the slow movement, Andanteo o più tosto allegretto. The main melody rocks almost like a cradle song, or perhaps a barcarolle, with a delicate pizzicato accompaniment. This melody submits to extensive variation, with significant modulations in the middle section, and makes its final appearance in a highly embellished form.
The third movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is sometimes called the "Hexenmenuett" (Witches' Minuet), with its weird melody played by the violins in duet, imitated canonically in octaves by violin and cello. The trio is no less disquieting, with its relentless ostinato accompaniment for a melody that seems rather out of kilter.
The finale, Vivace assai, is comparatively conventional by Haydn's standards. Its principal theme first appears in D minor, but after several energetic episodes (some of which lurch to brief, sudden standstills, as in the first movement), the theme creeps back in D major to lead the way into a fast, brilliant conclusion.
-- James Reel
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