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String Quartet No.1 in B Flat Major Hob.III:1 : 5. Presto
Franz Joseph Haydn Lyrics

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Most interesting comment from YouTube:

Elaine Blackhurst

Hannah Strickland
All of the string quartets of Haydn are important to some degree, none are unimportant.
Set yourself the task - it will actually be a very fulfilling and life enriching journey - of listening to all 68* starting from Opus 1 No1.

There is barely a single one that does not bear repeated listening, and rather like reading a book, it’s better to read the introductory chapters to understand the later plot.

In total, they represent one of the pinnacles of all western classical music and are of such importance and stature they have influenced composers from Mozart and Beethoven, to the present day.

These 68 quartets are a musical treasure chest, and no other composer has written so much music of such sustained inspiration over such a long period; in many respects, as a composer of string quartets, Haydn has never really been surpassed, only occasionally equalled.

Opus 0, 1, and 2 (c1757 - 1762).
There are ten very early works, largely five movement ‘Divertimenti a quattro’, but well worth investigating.
Whilst early works, Haydn is almost unique amongst composers in having no immature period; from the outset, everything is competently and professionally composed, and highly original.

Forget the spurious so-called ‘Opus 3’ which includes the well-known sugary sweet serenade, it’s not by Haydn.

Opus 9 (c.1769)
The first of the more usual four movement quartets to appear as a set of 6; they already contain music foreshadowing what is to come, with the inclusion of a single - profound - minor key quartet.
Whilst genuine quartets, they contain first violin parts clearly written for Luigi Tomasini, Haydn’s first violin leader at Eszterhaza; this is particularly evident in the soloistic, serenade type slow movements.
The d minor Opus 9 No 4 is probably the world’s first truly great string quartet (it includes an astonishing foreshadowing of the opening theme of the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony 40).

Opus 17 (1770 -1771)
Very similar in style to Opus 9: moderately paced opening movements in four of the quartets, solo opportunities for the first violin in the slow movements, and a very powerful c minor quartet - Opus 17 No 4.
Outside the ten early quartets, perhaps the least known set of all.

Opus 20 (1772)
This set is quite simply one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of western classical music; six unqualified masterpieces of inspired originality and genius, written at the peak of Haydn’s ‘sturm und drang’ phase.
These are dense, profound works - two in minor keys - full of interest, with fugal finales in three cases.
(Opus 20 was inexplicably omitted from the list above suggested in another reply to your question).
From Opus 20 onwards, put very simply, with virtually no exceptions, Haydn only writes masterpieces.

Opus 33 (1781)
After the monumental Opus 20, this next set written almost a decade later, are the six quartets written ‘ a new and special way,’ as Haydn announced - referring to the increased concentration on rigorous motivic and thematic working out and development, often integrating counterpoint, rather than it being something separate as in the fugal finales of Opus 20.
This is the set that pushed Mozart into spending three years writing his own set of six dedicated to Haydn (though we know that he was familiar with some of the earlier ones as well).
Opus 33 again shows further significant developments in the form; it is worth listening carefully to see why Mozart - CPE Bach too - spent so much time studying them: they will repay every moment spent listening to them.

Opus 42 (1784)
There is a single d minor quartet, possibly the only one completed for a projected, but unfulfilled commission from Spain for a set of small quartets.
This is the work I would recommend as a first for someone who had never listened to quartet before - it is the perfect introduction to the form.

Opus 50 (1787)
Haydn’s first set since hearing and playing Mozart’s six dedicated to himself.
Barely a note sounds like Mozart but he has very subtly incorporated one or two Mozartian influences, for example some new slithery chromaticisms appear in music that is so quintessentially still his own.

[Opus 51]
The Seven Last Words (1787)
Ignore this string quartet arrangement of The Seven Last Words (Opus 51), arranged for quartet by Haydn and published the year after the original; it loses so much in comparison to the marvellous orchestral original, it is not idiomatic quartet writing.
This quartet arrangement of the fantastic orchestral original is simply Haydn the businessman trying to boost sales of a very popular work.
Haydn also authorised a keyboard version which was published the same year.

Opus 54 & 55 (1788)
This is actually one complete set of six; it is probably the first set where Haydn is starting to think more in terms of public performance rather than just private chamber music, it is another very fine set with movement after movement of quartet writing of the highest quality.
Opus 54 No 2 is one of the many quartets sometimes nominated as Haydn’s very greatest single quartet.

Opus 64 (1790)
Once again, this set contains some spectacular, ‘public’ music, indeed soloistic virtuoso music; some of which was performed in London on the composer’s first visit to the city at Salomon’s concerts in the world 1791 and 1792 seasons.
Once again, the story is simply one masterpiece after another in an endless stream of invention, inspiration and originality.

Opus 71 & 74 (1793)
Once again, one complete set of six: they were written at Eisenstadt during the summer of 1793, the time he spent in Vienna between the two long London visits.
Beethoven also spent time there, and the two composers would have been together, discussing music and composition - probably not just the counterpoint lessons.
These quartets were undoubtedly written with the London concert halls in mind, you can clearly hear that each quartet begins with a big ‘stop talking’ gesture.
All six are fantastic, big scale, musically ambitious quartets.

Opus 76 (1796-1797)
Haydn’s final completed set, crowns his towering achievement in taking the quartet from incidental divertimento type background music, to a form by which every later composer would ultimately be judged in the field of instrumental composition.
The most amazing thing is that Haydn is still saying new things and still developing the quartet as a means of musical, emotional, dramatic and intellectual communication.

Opus 77 (1799)
Haydn was commissioned to write another set of six quartets by Prince Lobkowitz who also commissioned Beethoven’s first set of quartets - Opus 18 - at the same time.
The ageing and tiring composer managed to complete only two whilst simultaneously working of The Seasons.
Haydn was extremely exhausted by the composition of The Seasons, but there is no sign of this in his last two completed quartets; both these works contain for example, extraordinary key relationships both within and between movements, something that had fascinated Haydn for many years and was taken up by all his greatest successors.
The presto scherzo of Opus 77 No 2 has been described as sounding like something from Dvorak; an illustration of just how far Haydn had come.

Opus 103 (1803)
Haydn managed an Andante grazioso and Minuet of a projected d minor quartet that was published unfinished as Opus 103.

In summary, they are all important, and they are all worth listening to.

Rather like reading a book, I suggest you start at the beginning, and work your way through, and rather like a book, don’t miss out any chapters - read the whole amazing story.

* Note: There are 68 Haydn string quartets as outlined above.
In some older - or ill-researched - accounts, you will read of 82, or 84 quartets: this is explained by the entirely erroneous inclusion of the spurious Opus 3, and the arrangements of the Seven Last Words (Opus 51), neither of which should be included - hence the square brackets.

All comments from YouTube:

Mateusz Andrzejewski

I'm really surprised, that his early quartets are so beautiful. Especially Adagio.

Insidious Humdrum

yeah, but what a bitch adagio is to play

Carl Connor

I’m new to his Quartets. I was awakened to Haydn’s genius in his Symphonic development by the critic David Hurwitz. Then David got me onto the Quartets. Haydn was truly a genius! Mozart and Beethoven rightly get praised for their genius. But Haydn was innovating before either of them. Check out Hurwitz’s YouTube channel!

Frans Meersman

For the upload of all the string quartets of Joseph Haydn you desereve my deepest gratitude. I've have many but not all.

Frans Meersman

@Braylon Idris Please stop !

Vincent D. Centeno, PhD

I concur.


Aside from their ineffable sublimity, Papa Haydn's works are genuine lessons of craft, form and technique. The first movement is a short compendium of sonata-form.

Hans Neusidler

The adagio absolutely serene, solemn and peaceful. Good for the soul...


A lovely work and performance!


I'm grateful that you uploaded those string quartets:) I'm learning english by them (during listening them) :D

Have a nice day :>

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