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.