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Joseph Haydn 's Lifelong Involvement With The String Quartet

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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)’s lifelong involvement with the string quartet began in the 1750s with a series of works that proved to be among the most auspicious fruits of his early maturity. Haydn had enjoyed success as a singer at the cathedral and at court until his eighteenth year, but from that time on he was obliged to fend for himself as a freelance teacher and musician. As the occasion arose Haydn tried his hand in a variety of musical genres, composing sacred works, and pieces of instrumental music. He attracted the attention of music-loving patrons. For several years before he served as music director to Count Karl Joseph Franz Morzin (1717-83), in 1757 or 58, Haydn worked for the family of Baron Carl Joseph Fürnberg (ca.1727-67),…show more content…
Although this oeuvre mirrors many of the stylistic concerns of the period and of Haydn’s music overall, the features that most distinguish the quartets are their use of “conversational” textures and devices, their persistent elevation and seriousness, which is intensified rather than undercut by their pervasive wit, and their strikingly tactile and performative use of the medium. On the basis of this achievement, it is proper to regard Haydn as the creator of a new genre. The account transmitted by Haydn’s friend and biographer Georg August Griesinger (1769-1845) makes no reference to precedents. Although it appears that at least two contemporaries wrote comparable works for four string parts at around the same time, Haydn’s works nonetheless stand out by virtue of their technical polish, structural control, and sure grasp of the medium’s possibilities. Haydn’s quartets were so influential not only because they are great works in a genre whose time had evidently come, but also because they were so immediately and widely published. In the summer of 1795, Haydn returned to Vienna from the second visit to England. And in the following year, he began work on the monumental compositions for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra that dominated the final stage of his career: the two late oratorios, The Creation (1796-98) and The Seasons (1799-1801), and the large-scale concerted
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