Haydn, Joseph: String Quartet in G minor, op. 20, no. 3

The importance of JOSEPH HAYDN in the history of the string quartet can hardly be overstated. There were certainly pieces written for two violins, viola, and cello before his, but it was he who made the string quartet the core of the chamber music repertoire. He did this in two ways: 1) he wrote great quartets; and 2) he wrote a lot of great quartets.

The string quartet in G Minor, op. 20, no. 3, is conventionally formed only because it is one of the pieces which formed the conventions. It is in four movements (Fast – Minuet – Slow – Fast), but within each movement there is the usual wealth of Haydn’s ingeniously humorous irregularity.

The music of Haydn is so intrinsically and purely musical that it is difficult to describe in a few words. However, especially to those who are fluent in musical language, like Mozart or (Haydn’s student) Beethoven, the string quartets have been a profound influence. Mozart famously dedicated a group of quartets to Haydn; Beethoven succeeded Haydn as master of the form; and Johannes Brahms, himself a master of controlled irregularity, owned a manuscript to the G Minor Quartet, op. 20, no. 3, which was given to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.

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