Haydn’s six Op. 20 string quartets are milestones in the history of the genre. He wrote them in 1772 for performance by his colleagues at the Esterházy court and, unusually, not specifically for publication. Each one is a unique masterpiece and the set introduces compositional techniques that radically transformed the genre and shaped it for centuries to come. Haydn overturns conventional instrumental roles, crafts remarkably original colours and textures, and unlocks new expressive possibilities in these works which were crucial in establishing the reputation of purely instrumental music. The range within the quartets is kaleidoscopic. From the introspective, chorale-like slow movement of No. 1 via the terse and radical quartet No. 3 in G minor to the comic spirit of the fourth in D major, each of the quartets inhabits a distinct musical world. For many, this is some of the greatest music Haydn ever wrote.
Playing these seminal works is one of the world’s finest young ensembles, the Doric String Quartet. As well as having already produced a string of acclaimed recordings on Chandos, the group has been widely praised for its live performances of Haydn’s works. The Sunday Telegraph wrote that ‘Haydn and the Doric are a perfect match… Unequivocally, these were performances of terrific panache and perception, seeming to get right under the skin of Haydn’s creative genius’