JOSEPH HAYDN String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5
Haydn's six Op. 20 string quartets dazzled audiences in the 1770s with their prodigal display of formal and melodic invention. In making the four players more or less equal partners, Haydn distanced himself from the top-heavy part-writing that characterized the instrumental chamber music of the Rococo period. Although it is designated a divertimento a quattro on the autograph manuscript, the F-Minor Quartet marks a sharp departure from the old-style string ensembles.
ROBERT SCHUMANN String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3
Schumann's three Op. 41 quartets of 1842 marked his return to chamber-music composition after a hiatus of several years. Like its two companions, the A-Major Quartet reflects the composer's deep immersion in the chamber music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, as well as a departure from the literary models that had inspired much of his earlier work.
FELIX MENDELSSOHN String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mendelssohn seldom used music as a vehicle for expressing personal feelings. But the death of his sister Fanny in May 1847, less than six months before his own demise, seems to have compelled a musical response in the form of the powerful F-Minor Quartet, his last and arguably greatest piece of chamber music. That fall, Mendelssohn played the work on the piano for his friend Ignaz Moscheles, who remarked that "the passionate character of the entire piece seems to me to be consistent with his deeply disturbed frame of mind."