Program Notes

FRANZ JOSEF HAYDN (1732 – 1809)

I. Allegro spiritoso
II. Andante grazioso
III. Menuet & Trio
IV. Finale: Presto

I wanted to pair a Haydn with Mozart’s last quartet and my instinct was to reach for the same key, F Major; tonal centers meant more to composers in the past. Then it turned out Haydn wrote only one late quartet in this key and that was in 1793, three years after his beloved student and friend had died. The two men shared a love of quartets (Mozart dedicated an earlier set to his teacher and Haydn single-handedly established the genre). But it wasn’t until I actually looked at the Haydn F Major quartet that my jaw dropped open: Haydn copied the beginning of Mozart’s quartet note for note. And the parallels don’t stop. Haydn later said “if Mozart had written nothing but his quartets and the Requiem, they alone would have been sufficient to make him immortal.” The teacher paid tribute to his student not by writing a piece full of tragedy but by quoting Mozart’s work and then paying homage to the spirit that permeates it. I find that almost unbearably sad and wonderful at the same time.

Program notes by David Yang