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Haydn: String Quartet no. 30

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: a funny foursome…

Musical humor is a Joseph Haydn trademark. Actually, “trademark” is a particularly apt term, considering Haydn’s knack for manipulating music publishing to his own advantage.

In a letter to a wealthy collector, Haydn referred to the op. 33 quartets as “of a new and entirely special kind.” While the quartets were, in fact, both “new” and “special,” Haydn was also using them as bait.

He regularly sold manuscript copies to collectors, sometimes even after the rights had been sold to his publisher Artaria. This unscrupulous move put everyone in a tricky position when Artaria pushed up the publishing date.

Haydn was furious. He had wanted to delay the public availability, since this would make his expensive manuscript copies worth less.

Luckily Artaria delayed publication, and both Haydn and his publishers henceforth proceeded with more caution.

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