HAYDN: String Quartets, Op. 33 (the “Russian” Quartets) Haydn’s “Russian” Quartets From a Great Russian Quartet Borodin Quartet Review By Joe Milicia

Haydn's Op.33 set of six string quartets, written in 1781 when he was 49, were his first in ten years, and are generally considered to show the composer reaching a new level of subtlety and sophistication — in short, wit — in chamber music. This quality, along with Haydn's characteristic robust energy and a sentiment that seems simultaneously warm and cool, is brought out admirably by the Borodin Quartet's new recording.

The set contains three of Haydn's better-known, because nicknamed, quartets. The "Bird" Quartet (No. 3) has "pecking" rhythms in its first movement (cf. the "Hen" Symphony written four years later), and the "How Do You Do?" Quartet (No. 5) is so named because the opening and closing four notes of the first movement suggest the common greeting. (Does this title sound less silly in the original German: Das "Wie Geht Es Dir? "Quartett?) As for the "Joke" (No. 2), it gets its name from the teasing conclusion of its finale, where we're made to think the piece is over when it isn't. To be sure, as everyone likes to point out, just as the "Surprise" Symphony has ...