Takacs quartet

The miracle of watching a great string quartet perform

Joseph Haydn, it’s generally agreed, invented the string quartet. And having done so, he re-invented it: again and again. Take his quartet Op. 20, No. 2, of 1772 – the first item in the Takacs Quartet’s recital last week at the Wigmore Hall. The cello propels itself forward and upward, then starts to warble like a bird on the wing. The viola sketches in a rudimentary bass line; the second violin – higher than the cello on paper, but actually playing at a lower pitch – shadows the melody in its flight. The first violin? Nothing: the leader (or so you might imagine) of the group is entirely silent until

The joy of Haydn’s string quartets – here are the best recordings

As Joseph Haydn was getting out of bed on the morning of 10 May 1809, a cannonball landed in his back garden. Napoleon’s armies were closing on Vienna, and Haydn’s suburban home was in the line of fire. His valet recorded that the bedroom door blew open and every window in the house rattled. Shaking violently, the 77-year-old composer’s first thought was for his household, which at that point comprised six servants and a talking parrot who addressed him as ‘Papa’. ‘Children, don’t be afraid, for where Haydn is, nothing can happen to you,’ he shouted. This was nothing particularly new. Over a long life Haydn survived smallpox, saw his