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8.550713 - HAYDN, F.J.: Piano Concertos - Hob.XVIII:F1, 4, 9, 11
English 

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)

Piano Concerto in F Major, Hob. XVIII: 7
Piano Concerto in G Major, Hob. XVIII: 4
Piano Concerto in G Major, Hob. XVIII: 9
Piano Concerto in D Major, Hob. XVIII: 11

 

Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.

On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, in the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.

On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterházy family, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.

The concertos of Haydn have survived only in part and it was a form that he seems, perhaps for practical reasons, to have favoured less. In addition to the three surviving violin concertos, a horn concerto, the two cello concertos and a set of five concertos for lira organizzata written in 1786-7 for the King of Naples, there remain five keyboard concertos so described and eight smaller scale works for harpsichord, two violins and cello, known either under the title Concertino or Divertimento, the latter composed during the earlier part of Haydn's career, either during his period of service with Count von Morzin or during his first years at Eisenstadt with the Esterhazys. A number of other concertos of various kinds have been ascribed to Haydn, these with greater or lesser degrees of probability.

The authenticity of the Concerto in F major, Hob. XVIII: 7, apparently for organ or harpsichord, has been doubted. The work was written by 1766 and was attributed in a manuscript copy to Wagenseil, its outer movements versions of a Divertimento or Partita attributed to Haydn and apparently composed about 1760. Whatever the circumstances of its composition, the concerto is a delightful work, with all the spirit and clarity of its period.

The Concerto in G major, Hob. XVIII: 4, comes from a later period, scored for harpsichord or fortepiano and strings with pairs of oboes and horns as required. It was written by 1781 and in spite of its undoubted authenticity fell under suspicion from contemporary critics, since the name of Haydn was now being used unscrupulously by ambitious publishers and promoters. It has been suggested that this concerto, a work of obvious charm, was written for the blind pianist Maria Theresia Paradis, for whom Salieri and later Mozart wrote concertos. A second G major Concerto, Hob. XVIII: 9, written by 1767, is of more doubtful origin, whatever its clear attractions, characteristic enough of the composer to whom it was ascribed. Its first movement, which opens with a forty bar orchestral exposition before the entry of the soloist, includes idiomatic keyboard writing in its syncopation and triplet semiquaver figuration. It is followed by a G minor slow movement and a cheerful final Tempo di Minuetto.

The best known of all keyboard concertos either attributed to or indisputably by Haydn is the Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII: 11, designed for harpsichord or fortepiano and written at some time between 1780 and 1783. It is scored for the usual orchestra of two oboes, two horns and strings and appeared in a variety of editions in 1784 and thereafter. The opening orchestral exposition is entrusted to violins and violas, later joined by the whole orchestra before the entry of the soloist. The A major slow movement gives an opportunity for the display of some virtuosity and is followed by a lively and inventive Hungarian Rondo, with episodes that suggest the Turkish fashion explored by Mozart in his A major Violin Concerto.


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