String Quartet, Op. 20, No. 1 (Hob. III:31) in Eb Maj. (1772)

by Joseph Haydn


by Lon W. Chaffin

The Background

 Early String Quartets (1757-1759)

  Op. 1
      Hybrids from diverse origins
      Diverse names - Divertimento, Notturno, Quartetto, and even    Symphony
      Five movements
           Minuet on either side of the slow movement
      A few preserve the Trio Sonata texture
           Two lower strings provide rhythmic-harmonic background for melodic violin parts
      Use of novel effects
      Varied instrumental combinations
           (the two directly above demonstrate Haydn's wit and humor)

 Middle Period Quartets (1760's)

  Op. 2 greatly resembles Op. 1
  Op. 3 believed not to be Haydn's - attributed to a monk
  Op. 9 composed probably 1769
       Four, not five movements
       4 of 6 1st movements are Moderato
            (too serious for Symphony)
            wider range of note values and emotional effects
       Minuet second, not third (needed to follow the slower Moderato opening)
       5 of 6 final movements marked Presto in 2/4
            (lively but lightly)
       Required more virtuosity for the 1st Violin than other parts
            (later quartets don't require as much but Haydn continues to think like a violinist)

 Mature Style

  Op. 17 and Op. 20, like Op. 9 were composed as a group
       (no particular order)
       Different publishers would publish them in different orders
       Haydn would change the order to sell to different publishers
  Op. 20 is significant because 3 of the 6 have fugal finales (2,5 & 6)
       not fugues like Bach
       more like essays in invertible counterpoint
       the "learned" effects had to be played down
       only used where they can't be taken too seriously
       "Fugue" was too serious for the galant, fashionable man
  Op. 20  is a good combination of form and expression
       Rhythms are more varied
       Themes are expanded
       Development more "organic"
       the four instruments have more individuality and equality
       the cello was used more melodically

The Work - String Quartet, Op. 20, No. 1 (Hob. III:31) in Eb major (1772)

 Haydn thought this one (the last of Op. 20 to be composed) was the one that
        deserved to be the first in the set
     Op. 20 is considered to be the peak of Haydn's string quartet style
          (a peak from which he never descended)
     In this work he displayed new ways to handle the instruments
          Duets (notice the counterpoint)
          three against a different three
          viola put in the bass with cello on melody
          antiphonal groupings
     Avoidance of "passage" work


      FIRST MOVEMENT - Allegro Moderato
           (It's a lesson in what to do other than Sonata form while staying within the framework of it)
                    First subject (m. 1) - unprecedented motivic economy
                         4-meas. A theme plus 2-meas. extension
                         meas. 7 - A repeated "on" the dominant
                         back in tonic at meas. 11
                    Transition from meas. 16 to 27 - long, developmental
                    Second subject at meas. 28 (Haydn technique of postponing the second subject -
                            almost seems like a closing theme)
                         In the dominant
                             4-meas. B theme plus 2-meas. extension
                              new material and some A material dev.
                    Closing - meas. 36 through 1st ending
                         the A flat in the first ending takes us to tonic
                              for the repeat

                    meas. 40-42 looks like an intro in G maj.
                    meas. 43 gives us A theme in the tonic (fausse reprise)
                    meas. 46 begins tonal instability
                    notice antiphonal-type imitation between Violin I and Cello - meas. 49-56
                    B theme at meas. 60 in C minor
                    A theme developed with imitation between voices in meas. 62-69
                    note in meas. 70 - transition motive from meas. 18

                    begins is measure 72 - different voicing - in tonic
                    A theme of 4 meas. (with no repeat "on" dominant)
                    Transition at meas. 82 uses A theme then original transitional material
                         it plays with the tonality but ultimately just returns to the tonic
                    B theme from meas. 96 in tonic
                    Closing from meas. 104 like in the Exposition

SECOND MOVEMENT - Un poco allegretto (Minuet and Trio)
        MINUET (rounded binary)
                A - pick up to meas. 1 through meas. 8 - repeated
                     (in tonic E flat)
                B - pick up to meas. 9 through downbeat of 20
                     ("on" the dominant B flat but goes through
                     B flat minor then back to B flat major)
                Transition - meas. 20 - 24
                     A theme returns at meas. 25
                     (in the tonic E flat)
                Closing - using A theme
                Repeat from B

                C theme - starts on subdominant but goes
                     back to tonic
                Closing with false return of A in F minor

           MINUET repeated

THIRD MOVEMENT Afettuoso e sostenuto
        Monothematic; harmonically / tonally moving
           Overall form is:
                A  in the tonic A flat - Repeated
                A in the dominant E flat ending in A flat - Repeated

FOURTH MOVEMENT - Presto (Sonata form)
                A  section - meas. 1 - 9 (Tonic E flat)
                Transition - meas. 10 - 32
                B section - meas. 33 - downbeat of 48 (Dominant)
                Closing - meas 48 - 55

                meas. 56 starts with A in tonic
                through meas. 106
                A section - meas. 107 - (Tonic)
                Transition at meas. 116
                B section - meas. 138  (Tonic)
                Closing - meas. 153