JOSEPH HAYDN String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2, "Joke"
Prolific and endlessly imaginative, Haydn virtually invented the string quartet as we know it. In the democratic spirit of the Enlightenment, he gradually worked out a style in which all four instruments were more or less equal partners, thus laying the foundation for the carefully balanced quartets of Mozart and Beethoven. Haydn's chamber music style is compounded of elegance and humor, both of which are on display in the "Joke" Quartet, with its radiant slow movement and whimsical Finale.
ALBAN BERG Lyric Suite
Berg was in his mid-40s when he wrote his best-known piece of chamber music as a cryptic love letter to his paramour, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Like Berg's opera Wozzeck and other works, the Lyric Suite fuses a strict, modernist 12-tone idiom with a freer Romantic impulse. The suite's "secret program" made headlines around the world when it was brought to light by American composer and musicologist George Perle in the June 1977 issue of the International Alban Berg Society Newsletter.
FRANZ SCHUBERT String Quartet in G Major, D. 887
Schubert completed a total of 15 quartets, the first when he was barely 13, the last some two years before his untimely death. In the mid-1820s, he became fixated on the idea of writing a "grand symphony" on the order of Beethoven's Ninth. Although that ambitious project never came to fruition, his last three quartets—the G-Major Quartet of 1826 and the quartets in A minor ("Rosamunde") and D minor ("Death and the Maiden"), both written in 1824—were clearly conceived on a symphonic scale.