Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) – String Quartets: in C major, Op. 54/2 (Hob. III:57); in G major, Op. 17/5 (Hob. III:29); and in E flat major, Op. 33/2 (Hob. III:38)
Bennewitz Quartet: Jakub Fišer – first violin, Štěpán Ježek – second violin, Jiří Pinkas – viola, Štěpán Doležal – cello
During the 18th century, the string quartet gained the position of the most valued and most challenging chamber music genre, and gradually became a vehicle for conveying the composer’s personal feelings. Joseph Haydn played a key role in forging the quartet’s classical form. He created almost 70 string quartets, which, along with the symphonies, constitute the largest, as well as the most significant, part of his oeuvre. Haydn accorded them the form that would serve as the model for Mozart, Beethoven and later composers. Just as fascinating as the quantity is his quartets’ sheer diversity, with each of them being singular, featuring novel (often humorous) ideas, experiments, as well as constant seeking of new possibilities of expression. The three quartets included on the present album chart the development of Haydn’s musical idiom, from Op. 17 (1771), which he wrote at the age of 40, through Op. 33, dubbed “Gli Scherzi” (1781, dedicated to the Grand Duke of Russia Pavel Petrovich, the future Tsar Paul I), to the formally experimental pieces making up Op. 54 (1788). The Bennewitz Quartet have given numerous concerts worldwide, including at the most prestigious venues (Wigmore Hall in London, Musikverein in Vienna, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, concert halls in New York, Seoul, etc.) and such renowned festivals as the Salzburger Festspiele, Lucerne Festival and Rheingau Musik Festival. At many of them, they have performed quartets by Haydn, one of their favourite composers, whose music they endow with a transparent sound, revealing their levity and sense for detail.
The Bennewitz Quartet – at home with Haydn
“The legacy of the Czech quartet tradition would appear to be safe in the hands of the Bennewitz, which eschews fashionable extremes of timbre and gesture without neglecting this music’s contrasts of town and country, court and tavern, and its capacity to surprise… All three are eminently repeatable accounts, but I have returned more than once to op.54 no.2 for a rare sense of a studio performance living in the moment of its creation.” The Strad, August 2023
String Quartet in G major, Op. 17 No. 5, Hob. III:29