“pour un Haydn”

Paul Zukofsky

with the collaboration of Anton Vishio1

“System ist in dieser Darstellung auf der Oberfläche gar nicht zu finden, und statt eines fertigen Lehrgebäudes sind es nichts als Werkstücke.”2

A person I no longer speak to (there are many of those) once told me that all the minuets, of all the Haydn String Quartets (hereinafter HSQMs, or some subset)* were --- “all the same.” Given the close genealogical ties binding the Haydn and Zukofsky families, this constituted a personal insult which could hardly be assuaged by the following tables in search of pattern and outer form.3

In a Nutshell 

Our premise is simple. If all HSQMs are all “the same”, measure counts should be uniform across all movements.

As evidence that this is not the case, we present a color coded map (sorted by opus, opus 0 at the top; opus 103 at the bottom) of the 80 HSQMs that can be found in the complete Haydn String Quartets, as published in the H.C. Robbins Landon edition.4

Equal horizontal space (on the map) equals the same number of measures across all movements (equal space does not imply equal duration, i.e. the tempi could be different).

The leftmost blue swath provides the length of the first section of M (i.e. up to the first :||) (hereinafter referred to as the “A” section).

The leftmost green swath provides the length of the remainder of the M (i.e. from the 1st :|| to the second :||) (hereinafter the “B” section).

A black vertical || delineates the end of M.

The yellow swath provides the length of the "C" section (i.e. up to the first :|| of T)

The red swath provides the length of the "D" section (i.e. from the 1st :|| of T to the second T :||)

A second black vertical || delineates the end of T.

Additional colors are used for additional, nontraditional, sections.

The rightmost blue and green swathes represent the dCs, normally 1/2 the lengths of the leftmost “A” & “B”.

Thin horizontal white dividers delineate the different opus numbers.

Equidistant black tick marks at the bottom and top of the map delineate 50-bar lengths.

What do we see?

Horizontal line-lengths vary greatly, i.e. not all minuet movements have the same total number of measures. The shortest is on line 38 (less than 100 measures for the entire movement), vs. a maximum (on line 78) of substantially greater than 300 measures. For this particular comparison, the entire movement of line 38 has fewer measures than does only the M of line 78.

M and T also vary, as can be seen from the jagged patterns formed by the black verticals.

The ratios of M to T also appear to vary.

Vertically, there is great variation within each color swath.

Not all lines utilize the same 4 colors.

The possibilities are legion.

We admit to bi-ass. One of us (PZ) stipulates to incandescent fury; but given this map (which plots only the most superficial structure), how even a dunce could possibly argue a case for --- “all the same” ---- passeth understanding.5

Variety is everywhere, and the H minuet movement gross form (let alone anything else) is no drear landscape.

Were sanity to now prevail, we should declare victory, and retire to the embrace of our 1942 Bas-Armagnac, never to be heard from further.

Sadly, such is not to be.


In order to “move things along”, we employ a number of abbreviations throughout the text, viz:


H = Haydn
HSQM = Haydn String Quartet Minuets
SYM(s) = Symphony (ies)
SQ(s) = String Quartet(s)

We consider the data from two perspectives: either in terms of the components of the entire movement; or in terms of the juxtaposition, or opposition, of the three classic divisions of the entire movement, i.e. the minuet section, vs. the trio section, vs. the da Capo.

Any discussion of components involves quotation marks.

"A" = the first "section" of the "minuet" portion of the movement (i.e. up to the first repeat sign).

"B" = the second "section" of the "minuet" portion of the movement(i.e. from the first to the second repeat sign).

"C" = the first "section" of the "trio" portion of the movement (i.e. from the last repeat of the minuet to the first repeat sign of the trio).

"D" = the second "section" of the "trio" portion of the movement (i.e. from the first repeat sign of the trio to the last).

"E" & "F" = sections subsequent, and/or additional, to "A", "B", "C", "D".

The following are ways of thinking about the components, and are italicized.

"ML"(s) = Measure Length(s) (used in "A", "B", "C", etc.).

"S"(s) = Section(s); as in the total number of "A"s, "B"s etc. within an entire movement. These are usually "10-S" but there are also "7-S", "9-S", "11-S" and "14-S" .

"DL"(s) = Different Length(s); as in how many different lengths are used across "A", "B", "C", "D".

"W"(s) = Weight(s); a way to think about and to distinguish different arrangements of various "DL"s.


Any discussion of the juxtaposition of the major divisions involves BOLD.

M = the Minuet sections of the entire movement; i.e. normally "A" + "B".

T = the Trio sections of the entire movement; i.e. normally "C" + "D".

dC = the da Capo section.

TML = Total Measure Length (of an M or T).

PT = Partition Types i.e. how the total of an M (or a T) is partitioned.


A note of caution:

When refering to an entire movement, we say minuet movement, or more simply, movement. M ONLY refers to that part of the movement that occurs before the Trio.