sun engraved image light

Version with flute - on period instruments


Moshe Aron Epstein on an original classical flute built in 1780

Ya’akov Rubinstein violin

Rachel Ringelstein viola

Myrna Herzog cello


Haydn's Sun Quartets Op.20 (1772) represent a true revolution in the history of instrumental composition. The boldness of their structural innovations and the depth of their emotional expression influenced decisively the next 200 years of quartet writing.

The cover of the first printed edition of Haydn's quartets Op. 20 bears the picture of a sun, and for this reason they became known as "The Sun Quartets". The legendary British musicologist Donald Tovey used the visual symbolism to describe the importance of those works, saying that the quartets Op. 20 were "a sunrise over the domain of sonata style and quartets in particular." And he continued: "Every page of the six quartets of Op. 20 is of historic and aesthetic importance; and though the total results still leave Haydn with a long road to travel, there is perhaps no single or sextuple opus in the history of instrumental music which has achieved so much or achieved it so quietly. …With Op. 20 the historical development of Haydn's quartets reaches its goal; and further progress is not progress in any historical sense, but simply the difference between one masterpiece and the next."

Ensemble PHOENIX photo Yossi Cohen lightFranz Joseph Haydn is a great composer not heard enough at the concert hall. Considered by some as the main engineer of the classical style, he influenced Mozart, his student Beethoven and many other composers. The Sun Quartets are believed to to have been the inspiration for the six early string quartets K. 168–173 written by the  17-year-old Mozart during a visit to Vienna in 1773.  Haydn's influence in this realm cannot be overestimated, and certainly it is not by chance that in 1785 Mozart  dedicated to him his so-called "Haydn" quartets (K. 387, 421, 428, 458, 464 and 465) - an unusual gesture at a time when dedicatees were only members of the aristocracy.

PHOENIX presents three of the Sun Quartets on period instruments, in a version for string trio and flute - in the 18th century often interchangeable with the violin. The 18th century practise of having a flute instead of a violin, often stated in the title page of the work, was especially common when we speak of Haydn, a composer who wrote so little for the flute. To the extent that, in the lack of more works dedicated to the instrument by the composer, 18th century publishers created inumerous "Haydn" chamber works for the flute - either arrangements of his works, or simply  complete forgeries - and published them under his name.

This seems to be the case of Quartet op.5 no.2 Hob. II:G4, which complements our program. It was first published in 1768 and reprinted in 1777 in Amsterdam, bearing the name of Haydn at the title page. This quartet is no longer considered to be by Haydn, but the identity of its composer remains a mystery. In our program, while it enlightens us about 18th century tastes, it makes for an interesting contrast with the real Haydn's quartets.


Joseph HaydnHAYDN: THE SUN QUARTETSEnsemble PHOENIX photo Arthur Herzog

Version with flute - on period instruments

היידןרביעיות השמש
גרסה עם חליל - בכלים תקופתיים




משה א. אפשטיין חליל קלאסי

Moshe Aron Epstein classical flute

יעקב רובינשטיין כינור

Ya'akov Rubinstein violin

רחל רינגלשטיין וִיוֹלָה

Rachel Ringelstein viola

מירנה הרצוג צ'לו

Myrn Herzog cello



Flute quartet Op. 5 No. 2 in G major רביעיית חליל אופ. 5 מס '2 בסול מז'ור
Presto assai - Menuetto - Adagio - Presto assai פרסטו אסאי - מינואט – אדג'יו – פרסטו אסאי


String Quartet, Op. 20 No. 4 in D major “Sun” (arr. for flute and string trio)

רביעיית מיתרים, אופ. 20 מס '4 ב רה, "שמש" (בעיבוד לחליל ושלישיית מיתרים)

Allegro di Molto – Affetuoso - Menuetto alla Zingarese – Trio – Presto e Scherzando

אלגרו די מולטו - אפטוזו - מינואט בסגנון צועני - טריו - פרסטו וסקרצנדו


String Quartet, Op. 20 No. 5 in g minor “Sun” (arr. flute and string trio)

רביעיית מיתרים, אופ. 20 מס '5 ב סול, "שמש" (בעיבוד לחליל ושלישיית מיתרים)

Moderato - Menuetto - Adagio - Finale: Fuga a 2 soggetti

מודרטו – מינואט – אדג'יו – פינאלה: פוגה עם 2 נושאים


String Quartet, Op. 20 No. 2 in C Major “Sun” (arranged for flute and string trio)

רביעיית מיתרים, אופ. 20 מס '2 ב דו, "שמש" (בעיבוד לחליל ושלישיית מיתרים)

Moderato – Adagio – Menuetto – Allegro Fuga a 4 soggetti

מודרטו -- אדג'יו – מינואט - אלגרו פוגה עם 4 נושאים



sun engraved image light

"The PHOENIX artists’ playing of Op.20 Quartets 2, 5 and 4 was indeed a celebration of Haydn’s “new-found freedom”, as they gave conviction to the intensely individual roles woven throughout. In the Adagio movement of No.2 in C-major, Herzog’s hauntingly beautiful ‘cello solo, Epstein’s almost unaccompanied flute solos and some robust ensemble “comments” create a kind of Baroque-style drama. Or are we indeed experiencing a  concerto when presented with a flute cadenza? Probably the most remarkable aspect of the Op.20 quartets is their engagement in counterpoint, immediately discernible in No.2’s opening movement. This quartet and No. 5, which followed, both have final movements cast as elaborate fugues; these were played at the Ein Kerem concert with committed personal expression... 

The string-players, performing on 18th century instruments with gut strings with historic bows and Epstein playing an original Classical flute built in 1780, produced a natural sense of balance, a soundscape in which Haydn’s wealth of ideas pervaded the quartet texture at every opportunity... 

Joining Moshe Aron Epstein's outstanding playing, Ya'akov Rubinstein, no longer a new face on the early music scene, gave a performance of fine musicality. Violist Rachel Ringelstein's splendid interpretation of each melodic line never fails to impress   As to the ‘cello’s newborn role in the chamber music genre, Myrna Herzog enticed a warm-toned stream of finely shaped sound from the ‘cello, expressive but always within the line and contour of good taste. With Haydn’s music characterized by directness and accessibility to the listener, it nevertheless presents a myriad of challenges to the performer. The PHOENIX players offered the audience the pleasure of listening to playing that is committed to musicianship of the highest order.

Read the full review here.