Haydn String Quartet in C, Op.76 no.3 "Kaiser"
II: Poco adagio cantabile
This graceful little movement is one of the most popular in the history of the string quartet. The quartet gains its nickname "Kaiser" from this movement, which incorporates Haydn's melody Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser. In fact, the movement is nothing more than that simple theme followed by four variations, but Haydn takes care not to let it grow repetitive. The melody is so beautiful, in fact, that it Germany adopted it as the tune for its national anthem.
After introducing the theme, the first violin moves on to an innocent accompaniment figure in the first variation, while the second violin picks up the melody. All the while, the viola and cello take a nice long rest, effectively turning the string quartet into a violin duo.
In Variation 2, the cello and viola re-enter, and this time the cello is given the tune. Now we have all the instruments playing together again, which gives a feeling of expanded scope.
Now, as the viola picks up the theme for Variation 3, you should be pretty familiar with the melody at this point. Now the tune has been passed between all four instruments. What to do now? Return where you came from, of course. In Variation 4, the melody goes back to the first violin as the music takes on a more nostalgic character. We go through that lovely theme one last time, now almost in a reminiscent manner... and at the very end, Haydn decides to add a few extra measures to bring a final sense of closure.
There is a symbolism present in this movement as well. Unlike
most other theme-and-variations movements (such as the famous one
from the "Trout" Quintet by
Schubert), the theme
remains basically unchanged throughout the whole movement. This is
in contrast to the many changes that the various accompaniments go
through. Haydn's intention here was to create a song of hope for
the preservation of his nation and his emporer; although the
surroundings and conditions may change, the empire will last
Hear this Movement
Recorded: in the TJHSST Auditorium on June 28, 1999
Violins: Michael Wilber, 1st; Laura Carr, 2nd;
Viola: Debdeep Maji;
Cello: Charles Han;
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