Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form

Exercise 5.2

This short exercise is about listening to the first 30 bars of the first movement of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76 No. 3 in order to describe different qualities of the themes and passages, writing about 100 words on the topic. However, I have slightly extended this post to include the full movement, since I believe there are some interesting moments going on in the development and recapitulation.

In terms of the exposition, in the primary subject area, I was expecting to see more standard forms such as a straightforward sentence or period. Instead, I was surprised to see how it is structured motivically, with the first and second theme almost being in a reciprocal, call-and-response kind of relationship in the first two bars, one being in forte and other silently answering in piano. The themes are also similar, and seem to stem from the same basic rhythmic and melodic idea. In bar 5, when the dotted theme appears, it is intertwined on top of the viola and cello playing the motif of the first theme. This weaving creates very stimulating textures that continually provoke interest. Overall, there seems to be a nice balance between the stasis provided by the pauses in the first four bars and the gradation achieved at the end of the first subject area, where the texture becomes very dense, culminating with the repetition of the high Cs in the violin.

The transition reuses the material of the first theme, but also introduces novel moments with trills and new rhythmic figures. At the moment of the arpeggiated dominant chord for the new key of G major in bar 22, there is another interesting call-and-response kind of moment, as the p melody suddenly reaches the fiery subordinate subject area. The melody of the theme is rather similar of the second theme from the primary subject area. It is important to note that Haydn was fond of mono-thematic sonatas, and the influence can be noticed indeed, In this rendition though, the texture is a lot more saturated, with the near-galloping of the repetitive semiquaver notes of the accompaniment. Unlike the previous more imitative and polyphonic texture, here the theme is more monophonic with violin playing the lead role. The sudden key change also makes this subject area a lot dramatic, shifting from G major to G minor in order to have a cadence at Eb. There is another transition-like moment, which brings back the more-polyphonic treatment. Suddenly, the fiery theme intrudes and repeats again concluding in G major. I would argue that there is a short 3-bar codetta at the end, before the exposition is repeated.

Although technically this would be the end of the exercise, I felt inclined to mention a few moments I found very interesting in the development and recapitulation of the piece. Firstly, in the development, I found the moment E major appears very intriguing. (bars 65-74) With the drones and the general nature of the melody, it can be identified that the theme recalls the genre of Musette. (I have marked this instance as green on the score – please refer to my annotation in exercise 5.1) In fact, looking back at some rhythmic moments, the exposition also contains some moments of the pastoral topoi, such as the evocation of hunting horns in the fast repeated notes and the dotted rhythm resembling country dances. In the recapitulation, there are two instances, which I have marked purple in the score (again refer to exercise 5.1) the rhythm and textures are completely different to the rest of the piece. I would argue that they present yet another kind of musical topics, though I haven’t yet extensively researched this subject to understand completely what these illustrate. Nonetheless, I see some elements of court-based music in the first, faster texture (bars 105-107) almost like concertato-style, while the second instance (bars 109-113) reminded me of the more church-like music with slower minims. All these moments really stood out to me.

In the next exercise, I will provide a reflection on the two previous exercises.

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