Australian Haydn Ensemble | Haydn’s Sun & Mendelssohn’s Stars – Armidale
11 February 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm AEDT$45
DARK, DAZZLING & LOVELORN STRING QUARTETS
The stock image of a cheerful sun that decorated the first edition of Haydn’s six Opus 20 Quartets earned them a nickname that proved apt. Not due to their composer’s consistently cloudless disposition, but because of their central and epoch-making place in the string quartet universe.
The sixth, in A major, skirts the deep melancholy of some of its sister quartets, but beautiful shadows still flit across its bright face, which seems, like this concert, to look forward to the expressiveness of romanticism and backward to the intricacies of the baroque. In its genial-sounding finale – a rigorous three-subject fugue replete with inversions and retrogrades, no less – Joe gives the finger to those critics who were writing him off as a lightweight, and perhaps, indirectly, to Enlightenment guru Rousseau, who regarded counterpoint as a “barbaric invention”.
Haydn never encountered J S Bach’s mighty Art of Fugue, but a decade on from this quartet, at a Viennese salon for early-Early-Music-nerds, he probably heard his friend Mozart’s string arrangements of fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier. He would have marvelled at the intricate clockwork of Bach’s final statement on the subject as performed here by quartet.
Beethoven worshipped such contrapuntal tapestries and paid them homage in his final quartets. As baffling as these were to the public, another musical prodigy, Felix Mendelssohn, not only “got them”, but, aged only 18, used the formidable A minor Op. 132 as a model for his first, in the same key.
Fugue and counterpoint are embedded in this miraculously mature work, which also brims with compelling, passionate melodies. It seems to sing like an opera without words, and is haunted by a questioning musical motif (“Is it true?”) from an early song, which Mendelssohn requested be published with the first edition of the quartet and also wrote the lyrics:
Is it true, that you always wait for me by the vine-draped wall?
And that with the moonlight and the little stars you consult about me also?
Three brilliant minds generate musical energy to keep the dark at bay in this richly satisfying program.
AHE STRING QUARTET
Skye McIntosh, violin
Matthew Greco, violin
Karina Schmitz, viola
Daniel Yeadon, cello
String Quartet in A major
Op. 20 No. 6 (Sun Quartets)
Selections from The Art of Fugue
String Quartet in A minor Op. 13
February 10th to 19th, 2023
ARMIDALE | FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY | 7 PM | THE ARMIDALE PLAYHOUSE
ARMIDALE | SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY | 7 PM | THE ARMIDALE PLAYHOUSE
CANBERRA | THURSDAY 16 FEBRUARY | 7 PM | WESLEY MUSIC CENTRE, FORREST
BERRY | FRIDAY 17 FEBRUARY | 7 PM | BERRY SCHOOL OF ARTS
SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS | SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY | 4 PM | BURRAWANG SCHOOL OF ARTS
AUSTRALIAN DIGITAL CONCERT HALL | SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY | 4 PM | LIVESTREAM
SYDNEY | SUNDAY 19 FEBRUARY | 5 PM UTZON ROOM | SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE