Maxwell Quartet - Haydn: String Quartets Op. 71 - All Music
This release by Scotland's Maxwell Quartet comes with a fairly detailed note, written by the performers themselves and explaining their motivations and interpretations. The players situate Haydn in the tradition of folk music from which he came, but not in the sense of direct melodic influence. Instead, you learn, Haydn exemplifies "a profound sense of openness, of understanding, and of equality," amplified by the fact that in Op. 71, Haydn was writing for a broad audience. The players emphasize the music's broad gestures and its technical brilliance. This is not the way everyone views Haydn, of course, and one misses the idea of humor and a certain wink of an eye in the performances. The playing is energetic and accurate throughout, however. Accompanying the folk concept is an unusual group of pieces: each of the three quartets of Op. 71 has a Scottish folk tune as postlude. These are arranged for string quartet, but there is no attempt to make them sound like Haydn or to include one of Haydn's own folk song arrangements for piano trio. Instead, you get slow, lyrical versions with lots of drones and mournful solo parts that will be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a Celtic folk concert for strings. This may or may not make sense in the larger scale, but the idea is undeniably attractive; sample the medley of tunes on track 10. A novel Haydn release that may be recommended even if it does not have the last word on the repertory.