Saturday, January 2, 2010

Schneider Quartet Haydn: Op. 42, Op. 77, Op. 103

Here's another in the ongoing project to post as many of these Schneider Quartet/Haydn recordings as I can. I have these particular quartets in the boxed version that includes two LPs. They all fit on one CD, though, thus I've included a portion of the box cover as a front CD insert as well as the record jacket fronts for both LPs in the linked folder.
The Op. 42 has always been a personal favorite of mine, and in this as well as the other works on this set, the Schneider group, led by a leader famous for his deeply felt readings, strikes just the right balance between emotional depth and formal elegance, in technically accomplished performances. Those who emphasize the formal aspect of Haydn's work (impressive though it be) at the expense of the humor, pathos, the melancholy or genial reflection, the unbridled joy, just do not do justice to this supremely and completely human composer, whose great genius was to retain at all times an emotional center while still expressing the range of human feeling.


  1. Interesting, and coincidental. I am working on op. 42 right now.

    I guess that taking the opposite view (humanist over formalist) does the opposite disservice (makes sense, yes?) of implying that the humor, joy, reflection &c in Haydn are products, somehow, of something other than the formal processes the composer used to arrive at the notes on the page.

    Anyhow, thanks for your project. I found your blog by accident searching for info on op. 42 and am delighted.


  2. Thanks for your comments. I'll be redoing OP. 42, since I think the equalization in the current post is too harsh.

    I guess the opposite of the opposite is what you start with, at least if "opposite" is an absolute value. At any rate, I was not trying to undervalue the formal beauty of Haydn's music, but rather to champion a kind of playing that is less in fashion than it was when I was coming of age musically. A score has to be realized in performance; and just playing the notes won't do. Even modern composer's much more detailed markings do not make their music immune to "interpretation", and that is much truer of Haydn whose scores are minimally marked (unless one uses a bastardized 19th century edition). The humor, joy, reflection, are, I believe, the products of Haydn's humanity not his forms. Yes, the notes and forms are the means by which he expressed them in his music. BUT -- it being an imperfect world with imperfect musical notation -- the intention must first be grasped and made real in performance. Playing the notes will not do it; that would be a little bit like reciting a poem by reading not the words, but the letters. I am, you might have guessed, that thoroughly unfashionable thing, a humanist.

  3. Sator and Lawrence, I side with Larry on this aesthetic matter of approaching the interpretation of the great works of 18th century music. The problem with the so-called "H.I.P" ("historically informed performance") approach to the works of the Baroque and Classical periods is that it ends up with a soul-less "one size fits all" that conceals and even tries to eliminate the particular beauties and salient characteristics of a piece of music, of one great enough to have such beauties. By ignoring the specific merits of a work, such excessively H.I.P. performances underplay, even undermine, what is in the music that, indeed, has made it to be considered a masterwork of the repertoire (or of a work that should have repertory status).

    What the Schneider do, so marvellously, is to play stylishly but also with a keen perception, which they convey magnificently, of the very real and specific merits of Haydn's quartets. The Konzerthaus quartet also did this, though not with quite the sheer elegance of the Schneider formation. Haydn was not a "typical" composer of any sort, and to play in a manner that emphasises, really, only what he shared with composers of lesser stature, whose works are lacking in Haydn's very great originality, betrays the greatness of Haydn's music, making it sound merely like period stuff, of the nice but quite ordinary work(s) of lesser composers of his time.

    Haydn is not the only composer of the Classical Period whose music deserves careful attention to its unique qualities (while respecting the period's style). I would make similar cases for outstandingly musical (and not merely "distinguishedly" H.I.P. stylistic) performances of the music of composers of the stature of Cambini, Boccherini, J.C. Bach, or Dittersdorf, and Cimarosa, who deserve more than mere "period performance practice" run-throughs of their chamber works and other music.

    Too often "H.I.P." performances of Baroque and Classical Era works are tedious, musically inattentive to the detail in works of genius, and perversely unmusical (in matters such as phrasing and articulation -- if you are such a player, you know what I mean and stand guilty!). I'll take the Haydn and Mozart of the Schneider, Konzerthaus, and Guarneri quartets ANY DAY over those of H.I.P. hacks.

  4. Thank you very much for sharing this fine Haydn!

  5. You're quite welcome. It's been a pleasure working on this project. I'm just hoping for some time to continue what I started.

    Thanks for your comment. Love to receive them.