Lovers of chamber music have good reason to raise a cheer on March 31, which marks the 282nd birthday of composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), who is often referred to as the "Father of the String Quartet." Over the course of his life, he composed sixty-eight quartets, through which he established the form's structural and musical hallmarks. As Haydn wrote his last set of quartets (Op. 77) in 1799, Ludwig van Beethoven was just embarking on his own defining work as a quartet composer. It is tantalizing to speculate whether Haydn and Beethoven were aware of each other's latest work in this annus mirabilis of the genre.
To celebrate Papa Haydn's birthday, the finale of Haydn's String Quartet in G major, Op. 77, No. 1, is performed here by the American String Quartet, played using three instruments from the Museum's collection:
Peter Winograd, violin: Antonio Stradivari, "The Antonius," 1711 (34.86.1 a)
Laurie Carney, violin: Antonio Stradivari, "The Francesca," 1694 (34.86.2 a)
Daniel Avshalamov, viola
Wolfram Koessel, cello: Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, Violoncello, mid-19th century (1984.114.1)