In his book Painting the Cannon’s Roar, Thomas Tolley makes various connections between the works of Francisco Goya and the works of Haydn, specifically Haydn’s quartets of op.76. The next couple of posts will deal with this opus of works and the Spanish painter. Firstly, above we see Goya’s Witches’ Sabbath, a perfect representation of Goya’s ability to depict the grotesque.
The Haydn work that comes to mind when viewing this image (again, somewhat obviously, due to the titles/nicknames) is the String Quartet in D minor, op.76 no.2. This Quartet is known as the Quinten Quartet, for its use of intervals of a fifth in the opening movement. Anyone who has studied music theory has likely had it drilled into their heads to avoid parallel fifths and octaves when writing harmonies. That being said, given the name of the quartet, one can anticipate a sense of uneasiness that is about to come. This effect is even more intense in the third movement, aptly named the “Witches’ Minuet” due to its harsh harmonies, parallel octaves, canonical form, and the fact that the trio that follows it does not resolve the tension created in the minuet, as one typically would. Upon listening to this movement, it is easy to get a feel of how this harshness relates to the theme of grotesque pictured above.
The link below begins at the Witches’ Minuet, and includes the fourth movement (which interestingly switches to D major towards the end, finally giving that anticipated sense of resolution) at around 3:15. Be sure to listen for the canonical form in which the cello and viola repeat the melody of the two violins, for a heightened sense of “witchy-ness”.