By Donald Francis, Sir Tovey
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26 Points of Departure The Quartet’s Voices To the extent that quartets of Haydn’s time were intended for private performance, with amateurs, connoisseurs, and professional musicians taking part, it would seem desirable for the music to gratify the performers by giving each a measure of thematic importance. Only rarely is there true equality, however: inevitably, the ﬁrst violin predominates as group leader and principal bearer of melodic responsibility. For Haydn, this holds true among later as well as earlier works, and it seems only natural to hear the top part as a surrogate for the composer’s own voice, a controlling presence that guides the progress of the music.
76/3. Subtle but intriguing are the several instances of a sopra una corda technique in which an entire phrase is encompassed within the dark sound of the violin’s lowest string, even though the line reaches well into the treble staff, as in Op. 8 Bariolage, the device by which a single repeating pitch is played alternately on two adjacent strings,9 stands out on one spectacular occasion—the ﬁnale of the quartet in D, Op. 50/6 (the “Frog”)—as the center of attention. Here, the pungent sonority of fast, string-crossing As (played alternately on the open A string and the adjacent stopped D string) arises immediately as a thematic element to be explored and developed.
9 on, there are indications of a trend toward increasing quartet size, but the tendency is neither pronounced nor uniformly pervasive. Although the very longest outer movements tend to be concentrated among late works, some of the earlier ﬁrst movements are remarkably large. (Op. 33/5/i has one of the highest measure counts of any of the quartets’ movements in 24 time, its 305 measures exceeded only by the 315 of Op. ) Moreover, there are late examples of more modest proportions, like the common-time opening movement of Op.