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The String Quartets of Joseph Haydn$
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Floyd Grave and Margaret Grave

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195173574

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195173574.001.0001

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Genre and Character

Genre and Character

(p.21) 2 Genre and Character
The String Quartets of Joseph Haydn

Floyd Grave

Margaret Grave

Oxford University Press

Drawing on Italian, French, German, and Viennese precedents, Haydn's early string quartets were among the first to define the genre's components: two violins, viola, and cello, without doubling and without basso continuo or contrabass support. The predominant cyclic design features a principal sonata-form movement followed by three other ingredients (minuet-trio, slow movement, finale) that unfold within its orbit. The six quartets in a normal opus group embrace various style topics and allusions, including popular song and dance, aria, concerto, and strict style. Each has a different tonal center; keys with few accidentals are favored; and connections are sometimes apparent between the prevailing character of a quartet and the traditional associations of its key. Minor tonality is always represented, normally by one quartet only. Virtually all groups feature musical wit, irony, and humor in addition to more elevated modes of discourse.

Keywords:   aria, basso continuo, concerto, contrabass, cyclic design, key associations, minor tonality, opus group, strict style, style topic

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