Haydn himself was in a particularly heightened state of awareness when he commenced writing his Op. 33 String Quartets, even going so far as to suggest in a letter to music-loving friends that these quartets were "composed in an entirely new and special way." It had been ten years since he last wrote for the medium (his Op. 20), and he had learned many things since that time, producing a series of wonderful symphonies and a number of operas.
It was the last that were to figure into the gestation of these quartets. To say that they are on a par with the advances that Beethoven was to make leaping to his last quartets is not an exaggeration; Haydn’s works are a sea change from what went before, and contain some masterly examples of his art that he would hardly top in even his later quartets. The typical Haydn teases are all there, along with bona fide scherzos and third-movement slow pieces, and drunken offset rhythms coupled with mangled melodic fits and turns designed to throw off even the most cautious listener. But most of all is an extraordinary sense of melodic refinement that he undoubtedly picked up from his opera experience. These are, quite simply, some of the most tuneful and beautifully ear-balmed quartets ever penned, and not a one is anything less than a stroke of genius and gift to humanity.
The Auryn Quartet has newly recorded these works, volume six of 14, and when they are finished they will rank among the world′s finest recorded Haydn Quartet cycles. The sound is resonant and nicely shaped, the instruments breathe, and the members of the quartet navigate around Haydn′s numerable complexities with all of the skill of a swordfighter against a tied up dummy--complete mastery. I thoroughly enjoyed this release, and look forward to hearing more. If you are looking for a jumping-into point in the Haydn Quartets, look no further.