Catherine Manson &
The London Haydn Quartet

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Catherine Manson & The London Haydn Quartet Official Site
Catherine Manson & London Haydn Quartet Recordings
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Catherine Manson & London Haydn Quartet Recordings
Your CD Series on Haydn Quartets has been widely publicly and critically acclaimed, especially the Vol. 6, featuring Haydn's Quartets Op. 54 & Op. 55. This Autumn 2018 (2 November 2018) you are going to release the Vol. 7 with Op. 64. Then in October 2018 you'll record the Vol. 8 (Op. 71 & Op. 74) always for Hyperion. Can you tell us about the origin and the beginning of this special project on Haydn's Quartets? And then can you present your single CDs from Vol. 1 to Vol. 6 as a musical journey through Haydn's inventiveness?
Being passionate about Haydn we found it astonishing that so little of his music is known or really appreciated. We were aware that there were dozens of masterpieces among the quartets which were hardly ever programmed so we decided to make it our mission to play all of them and to do what we could to help make these works better known.

There is a popular perception that if one charts a chronological course through Haydn's quartets from opus 9 to op 77 one will witness a gradual improvement in the skill of the composer. The opus 9 and 17 works are absolutely towering masterpieces and some of my favourite music of all time but they have been neglected partly because of the repetition of this faulty narrative and consequently a lot of utterly magnificent and unique music has been persistently misunderstood and overlooked.

         Quartets Op. 9 & Op. 17
Our recording project started with the six quartets, opus 9. The music from this period (c.1770) is some of the most profound and intensely personal Haydn ever wrote. Sequestered away in the secluded, artistic environment of the Esterhaza court, Haydn immersed himself in writing music which is so special it almost defies description. If anyone really wants to understand Haydn I would advise them to immerse themselves in the music of the 1760s and 70s - the quartets, baryton trios, piano sonatas, symphonies...this is Haydn speaking with people he knows will understand everything about what he's saying. On the chamber music courses I run (MusicWorks Chamber Music School) we always have Haydn Night when everyone plays Haydn all evening. In this situation it is the op 9s and 17s to which I am most likely to return to try to discover more of their secrets.

         Quartets Op. 20
The opus 20 quartets represent an astonishing compositional feat. They are written on quite a different scale to any other set - we were not certain that we could even fit all six quartets onto the double CD format! It is not only their length but their expansive vision which sets them apart from the other sets. There is more minor mode music in this set than in any other (op 20 no 3 in G minor and no 5 in F minor) and even the major mode pieces contain such marvels as the first set of variations (ever?) to remain in the minor throughout (Op 20 no 4).

         Quartets Op. 33
A decade separates the op 33s from the op 20s and this is a very different type of music. This new genre is more concise, very colourful and perhaps the first set of the quartets which can easily be appreciated on several different levels. Its vivid storytelling and humorous aspects are captivating even without the knowledge of how the music is constructed. The addition of scherzi in place of the menuets also marks a new episode in the history of the string quartet (... and eventually also of the symphony).

         Quartets Op. 42
We have skipped one masterpiece for the meantime but will come back to the mysteries of the wondrous op 42 at the end of our survey. This miraculous piece deserves a whole article of its own but that's for another time!

         Quartets Op. 50
The opus 50 set represents a fascinating synthesis of all the aspects so far with a return to slightly lengthier structures, which often seem to set out some kind of puzzle or to respond to an extreme compositional challenge without ever drawing attention to their complexity.

         Quartets Op. 54 & Op. 55
The op 54/55 quartets continue in this direction adding an element of daring in the instrumental writing. These quartets are not to be played by the faint of heart, since they contain some of the most virtuoso writing in every part. As in every set, Haydn reinvents the genre at least six times. The difference between the quartets within a set is at least as extreme as the difference between one set and another.

         Quartets Op. 64
The op 64s are a synthesis in another direction, this time combining the shorter forms more akin to the op 33s, with the virtuosity and outwardly friendly appeal of the last two sets, and the hidden puzzle elements are now integrated almost imperceptibly into the material.   
THE HAYDN QUARTETS SERIES (from Vol. 1 to Vol. 7)
The London Haydn Quartet (Hyperion Records)

 • Haydn Vol. 7: String Quartets Op. 64 (release 2 November 2018)

 • Haydn Vol. 1: String Quartets Op. 9
 • Haydn Vol. 2: String Quartets Op. 17

 • Haydn Vol. 3: String Quartets Op. 20
 • Haydn Vol. 4: String Quartets Op. 33

 • Haydn Vol. 5: String Quartets Op. 50
 • Haydn Vol. 6: String Quartets Op. 54 & Op. 55

London Haydn Quartet presents: Haydn, Op. 33 (Trailer)

London Haydn Quartet presents: Haydn, Op. 50 (Trailer)

London Haydn Quartet presents: Haydn, Op. 54 & Op. 55 (Trailer)
Haydn is considered the father of Symphony and the father of Quartets: do you agree with this interpretation of his work as composer and as inventor and innovator? To prepare your Series of CDs on Haydn's Quartets you had also to face and solve various situations you find in Haydn's scores: what have been the major difficulties? How do the amazing creativity and the genius of Haydn emerge from his very Quartet scores?
Haydn's inventiveness is absolutely staggering!

If ever any of my students has the impression that they know what kind of music Haydn wrote I take a volume of string quartets and we play a few. It is hard to find two among the complete works that one would even describe as similar!

I have particularly loved getting to know the piano sonatas and baryton trios and trying to guess what the starting point of the next one might be.

One of my ways to entertain myself is to listen to a Haydn piece I don't know, and during the exposition to try to guess what he will do at the beginning of the development. I haven't won at that game too many times!

To think that he was also writing symphonies, operas, incidental music for theatre and playing and rehearsing all of this is just mind-bending!

So yes, he was the inventor and innovator in all these fields but I don't think he had any particular intention of fathering a genre!

As he himself observed, his isolation made him far more inventive than he might have been had he had more distraction from the outside world.

This inventiveness is almost problematic when we record because the music offers so many possibilities that as soon as you have played it in one way you are inspired to try another... And in a recording we have to choose only one!

One thing which is extraordinarily impressive as a quartet player working on Haydn is the care that he took with the part-writing...

... It might seem like an insignificant detail given the whole marvel of Haydn generally, but we have never once had to take action to help the composition...

... with the quartets of other composers one finds places where the tune will not work naturally in a particular register with the accompaniments it has for instance and a balance has to be deliberately adjusted...

... With Haydn I can't think of a single place where this is the case! 
You have, in your repertoire, also the Quartets by Wranitzky, you are presenting during your tours of concerts. Can you tell us about him? He was in friendly relation with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven: do you think you can actually find elements of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven/pre-Beethoven in his Quartets? 
We live in a very strange era in which for the first time in history the role of composers and performers have been separated.

Even as recently as the 1920s it was very unusual that someone was one and not the other.

In fact I think this has caused a great impoverishment of how we understand music and how we read, think and talk about it.

Of course it was natural that someone like Wranitzky, a violinist/conductor/composer living in Vienna, in the circle of serious musicians, would write string quartets...

In 1780s/1790s his works were regularly performed in concert with those by Mozart, Haydn and Pleyel and, as far as we know, Wranitzky was particularly appreciated by both Haydn and Beethoven, who expressly requested his presence as conductor of their works.

One does observe the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven refracted through the eyes of other composers around them and it is interesting to see which elements of their music interested them to pick up...

... It is usually the recognisable harmonic progressions or melodic contours which appear in other music but...

... but, about Wranitzky, I can say that I haven't found anyone else yet who was experimenting to the same degree with form or with the process of setting up expectations and then subverting them.
After all, Wranitzky also belonged to the same lodge as Mozart (Zur gekrönten Hoffnung) and, as Wyn Jones pointed out, since the beginning of the 1780s, like his brother Anton, considered himself a pupil of Haydn, and with Haydn's permission: elève de m. Haydn (probably through some masterclass with Haydn).

Your quartet The London Haydn Quartet was founded in 2000. How and why did you decide to found it and to dedicate it to Haydn? What attracts you the most about Haydn's music? What your achievements in 18 years of concerts and recordings? You all also work as teachers, lecturers or give masterclasses: what are your very first pieces of advice and tips to those young musicians who are going to work on the 18th Century Chamber Music and especially on Haydn's works?
I have loved Haydn all my life!

I first played his quartet opus 64 no 5 when I was 7 years old and was overcome with how beautiful it was!

Soon after that I planned for myself exactly the life I now have - playing string quartets and running a chamber music school. I even wrote a curriculum and timetable for this school which bears a striking resemblance to any given day at MusicWorks courses!

When violist James Boyd and I met at Prussia Cove in our mid-teens we decided to play all the Haydn quartets in the library over a three week period...

... We then met regularly to play Haydn with different people whenever possible...

... Finally in 2000 this developed into an actual quartet and it was obvious to us all that this music would work best with gut strings and classical bows.

Having discovered that many of the most incredible quartets never seemed to be programmed, we realised that the problem was caused by the concept that a concert should start with a short, and preferably cheerful, piece by Haydn and then move onto the more serious music.

... We wanted to let people hear the long, complex, transcendent and scary pieces by Haydn which would never fit into this opening slot of a mixed programme. So we presented concerts with three or four Haydn quartets and I can promise that no one ever complained about lack of variety!

After a while we allowed Mozart to join the party for our collaboration with period clarinettist Eric Hoeprich and Weber quickly seized his opportunity too!
We love programming combinations of works like the op 18 Beethoven quartets with the Haydn op 77s and trying to imagine that these works were being written simultaneously, for the same patron, within a twenty minute walk of each other!

It seemed obvious that one of the best ways to help this music to be more known was to record them all.

We were so lucky that Hyperion, the dream chamber music label, agreed to embark on this journey with us and this has helped the music to be known to a much wider audience.

I am always so delighted to receive emails from listeners across the world whose lives have been illuminated by Haydn quartets they didn't know before.

At MusicWorks courses one of my favourite moments is when a young cellist tells me that Haydn is boring! I immediately find two other people and we go to play some of the most extraordinary Haydn together. The conversion process is quick and entirely painless!

We include a lot of Haydn quartets in the repertoire for the courses and we always approach it by getting the students to figure out how it is constructed, how it works harmonically, how the motifs interact with each other throughout the whole piece...

... On the junior courses I have heard amazing observations about structure from nine year olds - this is music that is intelligible and deeply rewarding for everyone who takes the time to look at it properly. I advise students to get to know as much of it as possible and every piece they know will inform their understanding of every other piece.
Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
Impossible question!

I could not live without Mozart opera but I'm not sure I could choose one.

Perhaps Figaro?

I simply cannot choose one Haydn work...

I need them all for different reasons.

If I was stuck on a desert island alone I think I'd be quite grateful for a score of the Creation...

... But I hope I might have the fortune to be marooned with the rest of the quartet and all the music for all the Haydn quartets!

Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you'd like to see re-evaluated?
Every time I play something by Hummel I think he is undeservedly neglected.

I have mentioned Wranitzky already but there is also Kraus, whose nickname of the Swedish Mozart is probably the most known thing about him.

I have recently been playing one of his viola concertos and in the same programme a symphony with the Apollo Ensemble, and I am very inspired to know more of his music.

This is the link to a concert at the Concertgebouw in October with music by Haydn, Mozart and Kraus:
14 October 2018: Catherine Manson plays Kraus, Mozart & Haydn.

Mozart, Wranitzky and Kraus... all born in 1756, the real year of Music...

Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you'd like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
I know this question is supposed to be about neglected composers but there are still so many works by Haydn that are neglected because they are generally misunderstood.

I would only like them to be played with more frequency if they had been understood first!

Catherine Manson plays Haydn with Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (CD Link)
Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
I am so grateful for all the research that Robbins Landon did on every aspect of Haydn's life and I refer to his books on a very regular basis.

I would also like tomorrow take this opportunity to express my huge appreciation of James Webster and Elaine Sisman's writings.

James Webster's book on the Farewell Symphony is one of my favourites. Using that great and hugely misunderstood masterpiece as his focus he writes fascinatingly about many important things relating to this era of music.
I highly recommend everything they have both written.
Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Phil Grabsky did great work with his In search of series (Mozart & Beethoven, Haydn) and the one about Haydn's life was terrific.

I wish we lived in an era when someone could make a documentary about Haydn's music in similar depth to Alexander Goehr's BBC series about Schoenberg.   
Do you think there's a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
For me the palaces in Eisenstadt and Fertöd induce a special thrill.

Even despite all the changes in between I feel there is something of the atmosphere that Haydn knew in both places and I love that!

... But Vienna was really the centre of the musical life which gave us all these treasures with which we still spend our lives.

There is no other city where practically every building has quite so much cultural significance in musical history!


  • Haydnhaus
         Haydn's final Vienna home, here Creation & Seasons were written.
  • Mozarthaus 
         Mozart's only surviving Vienna home (1784-1787). Here the Piano Concertos K.466, K.467, K.482, K.488, K.491, the Haydn Quartets, Davidde Penitente & Nozze di Figaro were written.
  • Beethoven's Eroicahaus
         Here Eroica was written.
  • Beethoven's Pasqualatihaus 
         Here 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th & Fidelio were written.
  • Beethoven's Wohnung Heiligenstadt 
         Here 1802 works (ie. Tempest, The Hunt, Eroica Variations, Kreutzer) were written.

  • St. Stephen's Cathedral - Wien Official Site 
  • St. Stephen's Cathedral - Wien: Concerts 
         The Musical Activities of the Cathedral
  • St. Stephen's Cathedral - Wien: Radio Klassik Stephansdom 
         Regularly featuring music by Joseph & Michael Haydn

  • Schoenbrunn Official Site 

Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
Thank you!