The String Quartets, Op. 50 (Hob. III/44-49, L. 36-41), were composed by Joseph Haydn in 1787. The set of six quartets was dedicated to King Frederick William II of Prussia. For this reason the set is commonly known as the Prussian Quartets. Haydn sold the set to the Viennese firm Artaria and, without Artaria’s knowledge, to the English publisher William Forster. Forster published it as Haydn’s Opus 44. Haydn’s autograph manuscripts for Nos. 3 to 6 of the set were discovered in Melbourne, Australia, in 1982.
Each of the six quartets in the set has four movements, and in each case the movements are ordered in a conventional fast–slow–minuet–fast sequence.
The set was Haydn’s first complete set of quartets since the Opus 33 set of 1781. While the Opus 33 set was apt for broad public consumption, the Opus 50 set is more serious and experimental. It is perhaps because of the Opus 50’s intellectual character that other sets among Haydn’s mature quartets have received more attention from performers.
String Quartets Op. 50 – No. 1 in B flat major HobIII 44