Next month the New Esterházy Quartet will present the last of the four programs prepared for their eleventh season. Readers may recall that the entire season was conceived as a chronological “tour” of the early history of string quartet performance, with particular attention to works composed by Joseph Haydn. Each concert involved a different geographical location and a different year as follows:
- Italy, 1766
- Vienna, 1784
- Paris, 1822
- London, 1845
Since Haydn died in 1809, he was only alive at the time of the first two concerts. Furthermore, he was only present at the second, where he was playing second violin to Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf in the first chair. This gathering was best known for the presence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on viola. (The cellist was Johann Baptist Wanhal.)
Ironically, the time and place of the final concert of the season have more to do with Ludwig van Beethoven than with Haydn. 1845 was the year in which the Beethoven Quartet Society was established in London, and it became the first organization to present the complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets. These were given in a series of concerts between April 21, 1845 and June 16, 1845. The members of the string quartet performing this cycle were violinists Camillo Sivori and Prosper Sainton, violist Henry Hill, and cellist Scipion Rousselot.
One would have thought that, after such an ambitious undertaking, those four musicians would have deserved an extended period of rest. However, the Society had other ideas. They decided (in an announcement released to their public) “that the same professional talent, and the same careful preparatory study which has made the beauties of the Beethoven Quartets so clear and intelligible to those who had the good fortune to attend the late performances in Harley Street should be applied to an illustration of the Quartets of Haydn, the great Father of that refined Music.” The performers decided that the program for this performance would consist of four Haydn quartets from different periods of his life. These are all in Volume III of Anthony van Hoboken catalog, with specific catalog numbers as follows:
- 22 in D minor: the fourth of the Opus 9 quartets, published in 1769
- 32 in C major: the second of the Opus 20 quartets, published in 1772
- 63 in D major: the fifth of the Opus 64 quartets, known as the “Lark” quartet, published in 1790
- 78 in B-flat major: the fourth of the Opus 76 quartets, known as the “Sunrise” quartet, published in 1797
This program, which covers almost 30 years of Haydn’s life will be the final offering of the season to be performed by NEQ. The title of the program will be Gratitude to Haydn. Haydn may not have “invented” the string quartet as a genre. However, he definitely had a strong hand in elevating it from the sort of private setting that he and Mozart shared with their colleagues to the public forum of audiences willing to pay a price of admission. In other words “Papa” Haydn may be regarded as the “father” of the very occasion that NEQ has organized for the conclusion of their season.
Like all of their other San Francisco performances, NEQ will present Gratitude to Haydn on a Saturday afternoon, April 14, at 4 p.m. Once again the venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. General admission is $30. Seniors, the disabled, and members of the San Francisco Early Music Society will be admitted for $25; and there is a $10 rate for students with valid identification. A Brown Paper Tickets event page has been set up for advance ticket purchases.