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 a compound of elegance and humor, both of which are on display in the "Joke" Quartet, with its radiant slow movement and whimsical Finale.
STEVEN MACKEY One Red Rose
Few events have seared the modern American memory more lastingly than the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. To mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, Steven Mackey has written a three-movement string quartet that interweaves themes of public and private mourning, the "swirling chaos" of the unfolding crisis, and the quiet dignity of the president's bereaved widow. The work takes its name from a blood-soaked rose retrieved from the floor of the presidential limousine.
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2
In his six Op. 18 quartets, Beethoven staked his claim to the title of Haydn's and Mozart's successor in the rarefied realm of the string quartet. Indeed, the G-Major Quartet all but challenges Haydn on his own turf, with its mixture of Classical formality and rambunctious high spirits. It may have been this blithe disregard of convention that led a contemporary critic to describe the Op. 18 quartets as "very difficult to perform and not at all popular," a judgment that posterity has overturned.