Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Haydn - String Quartet In C Major, Opus 76, No. 3 'Emperor'

The six string quartets of Opus 76 were composed in 1796-1797 and were the last complete set of quartets that Haydn wrote. He had been publishing string quartets in groups of six almost from the time he first wrote them, and Mozart followed suit. Beethoven kept up the tradition when he published his first six string quartets as Opus 18.

Joseph Haydn's String Quartet In C Major, Opus 76, No. 3 gets its nickname  from the second movement which is a set of variations on the tune of the Austrian National Anthem God Save Emperor Franz that he had written in 1797. Austria did not actually adopt the anthem until 1847. The anthem was popular early on and was adopted by Germany with a different title and words:  Deutschland über Alles. The tune was kept as the anthem of Germany after World War One by the Wiemar Republic, retained as the anthem by Nazi Germany, and is still the national anthem of Germany today.

By the time Haydn wrote Opus 76 he had returned from his triumphant tours of England in 1795 and while he was retained as Kappelmeister at the Esterházy court, it was only on a part time basis. He was now a famous man and after having served his employer for so many years was now free to compose as he wished, and also to accept commissions for works. The Hungarian Count Joseph von Erdödy commissioned the six quartets of opus 76 and was the dedicatee. For this reason the set is also known as the Erdödy Quartets. 

String Quartet Opus 76, No. 3 In C Major is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro -  The first theme is heard straight away, and after a few bars the theme changes to a dotted rhythm. The last part of the theme resembles the opening, and after a short transition the second theme in G major is heard. The exposition is repeated. The development begins with the dotted rhythm of the first theme and a dialog between the instruments constructed around a fragment of the beginning of the first theme. Then the viola and cello alternate playing two-note chords at the distance of a fifth while the violins play an extended variant of the dotted rhythm of the first theme which gives the impression of a village dance tune. The recapitulation repeats the two themes with the  modulation of the second theme to the tonic, C major. After the recapitulation Haydn has the development and recapitulation repeated. After that the second ending of the section brings the movement to a close in C major.

II. Poco adagio, cantabile -  The movement is in G major, the theme is God Save The Emperor Franz and Haydn writes 4 variations on it.

III. Menuetto - Allegretto -  The minuet is in C major, the trio is in A minor.

IV. Finale, Presto - The finale begins in C minor, and after the exposition, development and recapitulation, the themes finally modulate to C major in the coda.

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