About this Recording
8.550387 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 5 (Nos. 85, 92, 103)
English 

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Symphony No.85 in B Flat Major "La Reine"
Symphony No.92 in G Major "Oxford"
Symphony No.103 in E Flat Major "Drum Roll"

Joseph Haydn was as prolific as any eighteenth century composer, his fecundity a matter, in good part, of the nature of his employment and the length of his life. Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau, near the modern Slovak capital of Bratislava, the son of a wheelwright, he was recruited to the choir of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna at the age of eight, later making a living as best he could as a musician in the capital and winning useful acquaintances through his association with the Court Poet Metastasio and the composer Nicola Porpora.

In 1759, after some eight years of teaching and free-lance performance, whether as violinist or keyboard-player, Haydn found greater security in a position in the household of Count Morzin as director of music, wintering in Vienna and spending the summer on the Count's estate in Bohemia, where a small instrumental ensemble was available. In 1760 Haydn married1he eldest daughter of a wig-maker, a match that was to bring him no children and no great solace, and by the following year he had entered the service of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, as deputy to the old Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had much fault to find with his young colleague. In 1762 Prince Paul Anton died and was succeeded by his brother Prince Nikolaus, who concerned himself with the building of the great palace of Esterháza. In 1766 Wernerdied and Haydn assumed the full duties of Kapellmeister, spending the larger part of the year at Esterháza, relatively isolated on the Hungarian plains, and part of the winter at Eisenstadt, where his first years in the service of the family had passed.

Haydn's responsibilities at Esterháza were manifold. As Kapellmeister he was in full charge of the musicians employed by the Prince, writing music of all kinds, and directing performances, both instrumental and operatic. This busy if isolated career came to an end with the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790. From then onwards Haydn had greater freedom, while continuing to enjoy the title and emoluments of his position as Kapellmeister to the Prince's successors.

Release from his immediate responsibilities allowed Haydn in 1791 to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for concerts organised by Johann Peter Salomon. His very considerable success led to a second visit in 1794. The following year, at the request of the new Prince Esterházy, who had succeeded his elder brother in 1794, he resumed some of his earlier duties as Kapellmeister, now in Eisenstadt and in Vienna, where he took up his own residence until his death in 1809.

Haydn may have been isolated for much of his life from the major musical centres of Europe, although there were always occasional visits to Vienna. His reputation, however, was international and by the time of the commissioned symphonies for Paris, Nos. 82 to 87, he was already very well known there. The six new symphonies were written in 1785 and 1786 for a young French nobleman, the Comte d'Ogny, for the Concert de la Loge olympique, for which there was a much larger orchestra than the two dozen musicians who served Haydn at Esterháza. The orchestra for the Loge olympique concerts included forty violinists and ten double basses. The symphonies were performed in 1787, when Queen Marie Antoinette expressed her preference for the Symphony in B flat major, thereafter known as La Reine.

The symphony opens with all the instruments playing in unison, according to established French custom, with a dotted rhythm that recalls the French overture. This introduction is followed by a Vivace started by the strings, the bass descending in accompaniment to an initial held note, taken over by the oboe in the abbreviated second subject. The slow movement is a set of variations on a French folk-song, La gentille et jeune Lisette, followed by a French-style Minuet, with the opening of its Trio entrusted at first to violin and bassoon, later taken up in turn by oboes and flute. The bassoon doubles the violins in the announcement of the main theme, which dominates the final sonata-rondo movement.

During his first visit to England Haydn was given the degree of doctor of music by the University of Oxford, an honour that Dr. Burney induced him to accept. The ceremony took place in July 1791 in Sir Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre. Symphony No.92, later to be known as the Oxford Symphony, was played at the second of the concerts arranged, since the score had not been available for earlier rehearsal. The first half of the programme included excerpts from Handel and a song composed by Mozart's friend Stephen Storace and sung by his sister, Nancy, Mozart's first Susanna in Vienna. Franz Clement, who was later to give the first performance of Beethoven's violin concerto in Vienna, played a solo, and Michael Kelly, another of Mozart's Figaro cast, sang an Italian aria, and so the concert continued with a medley of items, interspersed at regular intervals by compositions by Handel.

The Oxford Symphony had been written in 1789, with the Esterháza orchestra in mind rather than the Paris forces of Comte d'Ogny, to whom it is dedicated, or, indeed, those under Cramer at the Oxford performance. The symphony opens with a slow introduction, played at first only by the strings, who also open the ensuing Allegro with a theme derived from the first section. The slow movement unusually includes in its scoring the trumpets and drums and in its concluding section a passage for wind instruments. The Minuet and Trio that constitute the third movement are followed by a characteristic final movement, its main theme announced by the first violin over a repeated cello obligato octave. The symphony marks the end of a period in Haydn's career as a composer, his last symphony for Esterháza and at the same time his last symphony for the ancien regime in Paris.

Haydn wrote the Symphony No.103, the so-called Drum-Roll, in 1795 during the course of his second visit to London. Here he could include clarinets in the scoring, as well as a second flute, instruments not available to him at Esterháza. The symphony was first performed at the King's Theatre on 2nd March at an Opera Concert, part of a series that had replaced the earlier London concerts organised by Salomon. According to custom the symphony opened the second half of the evening in a remarkably mixed programme. The slow introduction of the first movement starts with a drum-roll, followed by a long-drawn theme from cellos, double basses and bassoons, hinting at the Dies irae of the Requiem Mass, its final dynamic contrasts leading to a lively Allegro, towards the close of which the drum-roll and mysterious Adagio re-appear. The second movement is a set of double variations, its first C minor theme announced by the strings, joined by oboes, bassoons and horns for the second theme, in C major, both of which are apparently of Balkan folk provenance and are then varied in turn with all the subtlety of which Haydn was a master. The Minuet has a companion Trio that allows the London clarinettists a dangerous prominence. French horns introduce the Finale, remarkably based on one theme and as original as anything Haydn wrote.

Capella Istropolitana
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the orchestra works in the recording studio and undertakes frequent tours throughout Europe. Recordings by the orchestra on the Naxos label include The Best of Baroque Music, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, fifteen each of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as well as works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.

Barry Wordsworth
Barry Wordsworth's career has been dominated by his work for the Royal Ballet which started when he played the solo part in Frank Martin's Harpsichord Concerto, a score used by Sir Kenneth MacMillan for his ballet, Las Hermanas. In 1973 he became Assistant Conductor of the Royal Ballet's Touring Orchestra and in 1974 Principal Conductor of Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet.

In 1987 while retaining his connection with both Royal Ballet companies as guest conductor, Barry Wordsworth also worked with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC Concert and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. For the Naxos label Wordsworth has recorded a number of Mozart and Haydn symphonies, works by Smetana and Dvorak and for the Marco Polo label works by Bax.


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