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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: March 2011

23 - The string quartet

from PART III - MUSIC FOR THE SALON AND CONCERT ROOM

Summary

By the end of the eighteenth century, the string quartet had achieved a status beyond that of most other instrumental genres, a status that made it appealing as a hook on which to hang historical reputations. And this, in turn, sometimes meant creating convenient histories – or, by the early decades of the nineteenth century, asserting the importance of ‘great men’, their originality and independence of mind, their historical leadership, in whatever field:

The following purely chance circumstance had led [Haydn] to try his luck at the composition of quartets. A Baron Fürnberg had a place in Weinzierl. . . and from time to time he invited his pastor, his manager, Haydn and Albrechtsberger (a brother of the celebrated contrapuntist, who played the violoncello) to have a little music. Fürnberg requested Haydn to compose something that could be performed by these four amateurs. Haydn, then eighteen years old, took up this proposal and so originated his first quartet which, as soon as it appeared, gained such general approval that Haydn was encouraged to work further in this form.