September 13, 2018, 4:22 AM · Hello all. I was just wondering whhat your favourite quartet composer is? Mine's Haydn ^_^

Replies (28)

September 13, 2018, 6:51 AM · Well, I really adore Dvorak (especially for his "American" quartet), Borodin (for his Quartet No. 2) and Mozart ("The Hunt" in particular)
September 13, 2018, 11:35 PM · Ginastera, Bartok, or Shostakovich.
September 13, 2018, 11:59 PM · Oh yes Shostakovich 8
September 14, 2018, 3:10 AM · Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Shostakovich. (Chronological order, not order of preference.)
September 14, 2018, 4:02 AM · The late Beethoven Quartets.
September 14, 2018, 5:00 AM · Wtf guys? Beethoven is obviously the best ever
Edited: September 14, 2018, 7:02 AM · Personal taste. I really don't like much composed before 1810 or so, other than Bach, and Bach didn't write any string quartets. (In fact, I actively dislike most of Haydn, Mozart, and the first half of Beethoven's output.)
September 14, 2018, 11:18 AM · I used to think the same way Andrew, and one day realized that there is no bad music, only bad performers, and that one can learn to love all types of music, if they make the effort
September 14, 2018, 11:30 AM · I never liked Haydn until I saw Calidore play live. Phenomenal performance- go see them if they're in town. They also give amazing master classes.

September 14, 2018, 12:57 PM · I have to speak up for Haydn now. He would be my #1 overall.
September 14, 2018, 1:40 PM · Again, favorite, not greatest. I respect Haydn for developing the forms that later composers used. I'm just very much a Romanticist, and think even Beethoven was often too restrained.
September 14, 2018, 2:22 PM · Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, early Beethoven, Dvorak "American"
September 14, 2018, 4:14 PM · Actually my favorite composition, albeit an octet, is Mendelssohn's octet. He has a quartet with many of the octet themes by the octet always send me soaring. Beyond that I don't really have another chamber music piece that commands my attention as much.
September 14, 2018, 4:35 PM · Schmidt, A major.
Then Shostakovich, Zemlinsky, Dvorak. Also learned to know and like Wellesz recently, and lots of other great stuff out there...
September 14, 2018, 4:47 PM · My list shouldn't leave out Wolf, Enescu, Korngold...
If there wasn't Schmidt, "the favourite" would give me a hard choice!
September 15, 2018, 1:04 AM · I have to say that my favorite quartet composer is not always the same. Mostly it is the composer of the quartet I am working on.

But Haydn is the one I return to regularly.

It is worth mentioning that Haydn is very often performed poorly, at least his instrumental music is. People do not take the time that they would for Mozart or Beethoven and it shows. This disrespect is probably part of the reason why many people don't much like him.

September 15, 2018, 4:53 AM · Albrecht, I don’t think Beethoven or Mozart fare much better. Most pre-romantic composers do not get the attention they deserve, hence why most performances of their pieces are so boring, out of style, and a complete disaster.
Edited: September 15, 2018, 4:54 AM · Andrew, if you think Beethoven is ‘restrained’, you obviously have never heard great performances of his works.
But I do agree that most performers do a terrible job at conveying the true spirit of his music.
Edited: September 15, 2018, 5:35 AM · I've heard some of the best orchestras in the world play Beethoven. I've heard the Emerson Quartet play his quartets live on two separate occasions and the Takacs Quartet once.

My tastes have actually moved AWAY from the pre-Romantic over the years. The older I get, the less I like Mozart and Beethoven. Beethoven was a favorite when I was in college, and these days I only really enjoy what he wrote after about 1810.

Edited: September 15, 2018, 10:30 AM · Just in case anyone is curious, there are graded chamber repertoire lists, and here is a good one:


I suspect that one reason why Haydn is so popular among amateur violinists (myself include, of course) is because it's something that we might actually have a shot at playing. I was fortunate to hear the St. Lawrence Quartet perform Haydn (Op. 20 No. 5) and Beethoven (Op. 131), here in Blacksburg, and then participate in their open jam session afterward, wherein we read some Haydn. Picture yourself sitting right behind Owen Dalby ... been there!

My experience is the opposite of Andrew's. As I age I find I have more appreciation for the subtlety and humor in Haydn and Mozart. And Beethoven Op. 18 is just wonderful music, I can listen to those over and over; I love the recording by the Jerusalem Quartet. When I was younger I needed lush harmony and soaring melody on short time scales to hold my attention. Now I find I can listen to an entire work and I appreciate the logical structure of the earlier stuff. Of course the romantic composers understood structure too ... they were building on the foundations of the classicists.

Edited: September 15, 2018, 2:57 PM · Andrew, great orchestra does not equal great performance.

For a truly great performance of the symphonies, go check out some of Paavo Jarvi’s Beethoven cycle, for free on YouTube. I promise you’ll be converted

September 18, 2018, 2:14 PM · Luckily enough, on Friday, the quartet-in-residence at my school will be playing three of my favorite quartets from some of my favorite composers: Haydn "Sunrise," Shostakovich 7, and Beethoven Op. 132.
I find myself enjoying different composers for different reasons. As far as my personal taste goes, Haydn and Mozart are excellent for reading parties and playing with friends, because it's easier to go straight to interpretation and character. Something like Beethoven or Shostakovich or Brahms, requiring more technical preparation, can be thrilling to perform after spending a lot of time deeply examining and rehearsing the music. And of course, spending that same amount of time and effort on Haydn or Mozart will produce wonderful results as well.
September 18, 2018, 10:32 PM · There are maybe 20 great composers of quartets, I don't think I can pick a favorite. But if you underestimate Haydn, it's your loss.

One of the best things in my life in recent years has been the opportunity to read just about every Haydn quartet.

There are 69 counting the "seven last words of Christ." So really 62 complete quartets. You can skip Op. 1, 2 and 9 and not miss much, but everything else -- around 48 quartets -- is worth playing. I'd say 40 are world class pieces of music, and 25 or 30 are incredible, amazing soul-enriching music.

I particularly love Op. 76, Op. 64, Op. 50 and Op. 33. All of these just bristle with originality, just an unbelievable variety of melodies, harmonies, rhythmic and tonal effects. Every single one stands distinct from the others; he never wrote the same quartet twice. It's absolutely one of the greatest bodies of work by any artist in human history.

But the most profound, the most amazing might be Op. 20. If you don't know Haydn, Op. 20 might be a good place to start.

These were composed in 1772 during a turbulent time in Haydn's life. He emphatically broke with the shallow Gallant style, bringing incredible innovations in harmony and instrumentation to generate tremendous emotional depth.

Op. 20 contains gorgeous parts for all four instruments, parts that were extremely demanding for the time and are still challenging even by modern standards. Not a single Op. 20 is easy, technically and certainly not musically.

You play (or listen to) Op 20 and you immediately hear what inspired Mozart to devote years to writing his own quartets that would measure up to Haydn's standard -- which became the set that Mozart eventually dedicated to Haydn.

And then Beethoven, who studied both Haydn and Mozart, wrote his Opus 18s and pushed the drama and depth of the form even further.

We wouldn't have Mozart, we wouldn't have Beethoven as we know it without Haydn, and maybe not without Op. 20. And without Beethoven we wouldn't have Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorak, any of it really.

But don't listen to Haydn out of gratitude or interest in music history. Listen to Haydn because it is a huge amazing world of music that will make your day, every day.

September 18, 2018, 10:43 PM · The only other thing I would add to this thread is to disagree with any notion that Haydn is easy music.

Haydn 1st violin parts are not easy at all. Just about every quartet will have something for the 1st that's pretty nasty and exposed -- fast runs in very high positions, or intricate little bowing patterns.

The Guarneri quartet used to say the thing that was scariest for them to perform was early and middle Beethoven because the music is so crystal clear. Haydn is like that too, everything has to be perfectly in tune, attacks and rhythms have to be so precise.

Brahms is not easy of course but you can get away with some imprecision and still sound great. With Haydn, you can't.

September 19, 2018, 5:08 AM · Again: I used to like Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven, and don't any more. When I was in college, Beethoven and Mozart were each 20% of my CD collection. But my whole aesthetic philosophy has completely turned from Classicism to Romanticism for a number of reasons, mostly the result of difficult life circumstances that I don't want to get into. Basically I don't have patience for that kind of subtlety any more. (Oh, the other thing that may affect my musical tastes: violin is not and has never been my preferred instrument. I switched from piano to viola after college.)
September 22, 2018, 5:50 PM · The viola was Mozart's preferred string instrument. I highly recommend you add yourself to a quartet with your viola and read the Mozart quintets. You'll enjoy that first viola part. And you just may reconsider your attitude towards Mozart.
September 22, 2018, 8:12 PM · Shostakovich invented death metal with his 8th string quartet.
September 23, 2018, 4:35 AM · Not sure who is my favourite but like Handel, Elena Kats-Chernin and Adam Nieman

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