Musée du Louvre: Henri Loyette, president director; Monique Devaux, artistic director for concerts.
The concert is recorded by France Musique
Joseph Haydn's String Quartet opus 71 No. 2, also known in the Hoboken catalog as Hoboken III. 70, was composed in 1793. Its composition took place in Vienna between Haydn's two London trips. Joseph Haydn clearly dedicated the Quartets of this opus to the London audience. The Quartet opus 71 No. 2 is built around four movements. The first movement is an Adagio – Allegro in D Major which starts off as a very slow introduction (the Adagio is only four measures long), probably the only one written by Haydn. This introduction is then followed by an Allegro where we can hear a play between the octaves as it repeated by the four instruments starting from the lowest and ending with the highest-pitched instrument. The second movement is an Adagio cantabile in A Major that is frequently modulated. The third movement is Menuetto (Allegro) which is considered to be the ancestor of Beethoven's Scherzo of the Second Symphony. Finally the Quartet ends with a virtuoso Allegretto finale which takes the shape of a Lied. Its brilliance, vigorousness and its orchestral sonorities make this Quartet an unusual piece of Haydn's work.
Started in June 1826 and published in September 1827, the Quartet No. 16 in F Major opus 135 is Beethoven's last Quartet. He dedicated this work to Johann Wolfmeier, a wealthy businessman and patron. Written right after opus 131, the Quartet opus 135 was only performed after Beethoven's death by the Schuppanzigh Quartet, the same quartet which performed all Beethoven's late quartet compositions. Apart from a substitute finale for the 13th quartet, the opus 135 was Beethoven's last work and within Beethoven's last quartets, this piece stands out as the shortest and most classical by its structure. It is built around four movements. The first movement, an Allegretto, is a remarkable contrapuntal study without real melodic composition. With its atmosphere, the second movement, Vivace, has certainly borrowed some of the spirit of folkloric dances. Written after the others, the third movement, Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo, is a "soft hymn of rest and piece." Finally the last movement, Grave ma non troppo tratto-Allegro, seems to call for a mysterious apocalypse. What is the "difficult resolution" that is spoken of? Should it be read as a spiritual testament or a prosaic anecdote? The depth and mystery surrounding Beethoven's last Quartet makes it a disconcerting piece, one that is hard to address and whose full scope is difficult to comprehend.
In 1827, soon after Beethoven's death, the eighteen year old Mendelssohn decided to compose his first great quartet. Aware of Beethoven's tremendous legacy, he willingly imbued himself with Beethoven's last quartets especially opus 132 that served as the model of his Quartet in A Minor opus 13. The slow and serene introduction in A Major of this first movement evidently recalls Beethoven. The second movement Adagio non lento is a Lied cantabile followed by a long fugato with a detailed chromatic composition. Despite the torment of this second movement, the piece ends softly with a rhythm carried by the first violin. The Intermezzo is without a doubt the most revolutionary element of this Quartet. The bold Presto finale brings a theatrical dimension to this quartet inspired yet again by Beethoven. Inventive and daring, Mendelssohn's Quartet is an exalted homage paid to his predecessor.
© Auditorium du Louvre 2011
© Photo: Ellen Appel
Verbier Festival 2010