Ruminations on the Form
It is often said that people hear what they want to hear. When I listen to Haydn's string quartets I hear what I want: awareness without obsession, expression without indulgence, emotion without excess. Elements of the musical psyche are explored and recreated, not as isolated darknesses, but in measured relation to each other and to a wider world. Hard work is matched by pleasure, tension by release, aspiration by acceptance of a common and inevitable end. The theoretical achievement of a movement in sonata form is decorated with accessible grace and balanced by a thoughtful or elegaic adagio or andante. A dance movement recalls to our idyll the necessity of relation and its associated conventions. The finale, playful or furious but definitively final, identifies the collection as a subsisting whole, a completed lyrical unity. This unity might be conceived in turn as a narrative with beginning, middle and end, an engaged and educated conversation, a sermon or argument, or even as a jutting and salient object, an aural painting or sculpture. In any case, it lives through its own measured articulation, pursuing a dialectic of beauty that recognizes and utilises the disparate and opaque, but refuses to idolize or condemn. It finds a middle way.