Research Seminar: Sources for Ambiguity in Haydn String Quartet Op. 33 No. 1

Date & time

4–5.30pm 21 September 2017
Photo of Dr Mike Lee

The ANU Music Research Seminar is a weekly event normally held each Thursday at 3.30pm in The Kingsland Room on Level 6. This week, because of the Whitworth-Roach Compeititon heats, which finish at 3.45pm, the research seminar will start at 4pm.

It is the premier forum for academic staff, invited guests and postgraduate researchers of the ANU School of Music to present their work. This week Dr Mike Lee presents his paper 'Sources for Ambiguity in Haydn String Quartet Op. 33 No. 1'


The opening theme of Haydn’s Op. 33 No. 1 string quartet has been widely recognized for its inherent tonal ambiguity. It is said that the ambiguity resolves when the theme returns at the onset of the subordinate area accompanied by the cello holding a pedal. Building on this interpretation, I argue that there are additional features of the opening material that remain unresolved notwithstanding the stabilizing effects of the cello pedal point.

I draw upon Robert Gjerdingen’s theory of Galant schemata to suggest that Haydn understood the syntactical implications of certain schemata and played on their syntax to craft long-range formal connections. I conclude the talk with a revised interpretation of the recapitulatory junction and offer an extra-musical performance context that might have inspired the movement’s formal and structural features.

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