The Australian Haydn Ensemble presents Prussian Quartets, three impressive string quartets recalling musical dedications to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II.
In the late 1800s, Berlin was the vibrant seat of a kingdom that stretched from the Baltic states, Silesia and up to modern Denmark, and boasted a lively salon culture. These salon gatherings encouraged intelligent conversation, the exchange of ideas, and most importantly, the chance to perform ‘new’ music.
The reign of King Friedrich Wilhelm II was relatively brief and his greatest claim to fame today is the building of the Brandenburg Gate. But as a patron of the arts, many notable chamber works were penned for him, including all three quartets featured in this program.
The dedication to King Friederich is said to have come about after Haydn received a letter from him praising Haydn for the Paris symphonies. The letter enclosed a gift of a golden ring. To honour this, Haydn dedicated the Op. 50 quartets to him.
Mozart’s set of three Prussian quartets, with their prominent cello solos, were almost certainly written to please the amateur cellist King. The third quartet in F major was one of the last quartets he composed, and it displays many of the composer’s trademark qualities – uneven phrases, sudden tempo changes, ingenious rhythms and novel harmonic shifts. The ending is a poetic stroke of mastery in itself, with the music lifting and dissolving into the ether.
Pleyel, a student of Haydn (of whom Haydn was quite proud), also dedicated twelve quartets to the King. Of these, the AHE Quartet presents Quartet No. 9 in G minor.
The programme: HAYDN String Quartet Op. 50 No. 1 in B flat major (Prussian Quartets)/ PLEYEL String Quartet in G minor Ben. 339 (Prussian Quartets)/ MOZART String Quartet No. 23 K. 590 in F major (Third Prussian)
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