It is nicknamed “Sunrise” for its rising theme over sustained chords that begins the quartet. Haydn’s op.76 was dedicated to Count Joseph Erdody, a Hungarian count, and remains as one of the most renowned Haydn’s string quartet collections.
The work is divided into 4 movements:
Allegro con spirito
This movement starts with a stunning opening, with a long melody in the first violin emerging from sustained chords in the lower strings. The introduction grows until the first full-fledged theme bursts like blinding light, with the sun fully emerging. Haydn introduces the theme repeatedly to emphasise on this emotion, sometimes inverting the theme using the cello.
The adagio is evocative of a holy hymn, recalling the beginning of the first movement but in slow motion. It can be imagined as a more sombre sunset, contrasting the brightness heard in the first movement.
Haydn transforms the French court dance into a robust German waltz, with a steady downbeat, a strong forward momentum, and passages that recall the gentle rise of the sun at the beginning.
Finale, Allegro, ma non-troppo
The finale begins on a crisp and tuneful note, sounding like an English folk song. The structure is similar to the first movement, with alternating major-minor episodes. Haydn puts his foot down on the accelerator, piu allegro, piu presto, and finishes with an exhilarating race to the end.