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8.550721 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 6 (Nos. 26, 35, 49)
Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.26 in D Minor, "Lamentatione"
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.
Whether Haydn was the father of the symphony is a question best left to musical genealogists. His career, however, spanned the period during which the classical symphony developed as the principal orchestral form. He himself certainly played a major part in this development, from his first symphony some time before 1759 to his final series of symphonies written for the greater resources of London in 1794 and 1795. The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and a much larger body of compositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra at Esterháza and at Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo, at least with the relatively smaller number of string players available.
Symphony No.26 in D minor seems to have been written in 1768 or thereabouts and is scored for the usual Esterháza forces of pairs of oboes and French horns, bassoon, strings and cembalo.
The symphony once had the spurious title Weihnachts symphonie, giving rise to the false supposition that it once had a final Christmas pastoral movement. The title Lamentatione has more justification and the Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon has shown from other evidence that the symphony is based on a traditional drama associated with the liturgical singing of the accounts of the Passion of Christ in Holy Week. The first movement opens with a first subject that sets the scene of the tragedy. It is followed by a change to F major and a theme for first oboe and second violin that is derived from the liturgical chant, starting with the familiar introductory words of the traditional text, followed by the more measured words of Christ, the interpolation of the Evangelist narrator and the words of the crowd. This forms the exposition or first section of the movement. The central development opens with are turn to the material of the beginning of the symphony. The final recapitulation has the thematic material of liturgical derivation in the key of D major, the key in which the movement ends. The slow second movement again entrusts the liturgical material to the first oboe and second violin, now using a melody derived from the Lamentations of Maundy Thursday Matins, to which the first violin adds a very different theme, a violin obbligato to what has been transformed into a chorale. The symphony ends with a Minuet and Trio that might at first seem less appropriate to the occasion, although the key of the Minuet ensures a continued element of solemnity.
Haydn completed his Symphony No.35 in B flat major on 1st December 1767, scoring the work for pairs of oboes and high B flat horns, bassoon, strings and cembalo. What starts light-heartedly enough assumes a graver air in the central development, where contrapuntal use of earlier thematic material introduces an element of stronger feeling, with the recapitulation marked by the ascent of the first horn to unusual heights. The E flat major slow movement is scored for strings only with music of considerable charm. The wind instruments return for the Minuet, but are excluded from the E flat Trio, with its triplet rhythm handed from second to first violin. The symphony ends with a cheerful Finale and the tone of the whole work has led Robbins Landon to suggest that it might have been written to celebrate the return from Paris of Prince Esterházy, who had visited France in the autumn of 1767 with the presumed object of learning more about the Palace of Versailles that his own new palace at Esterháza was to imitate and rival.
Symphony No.49, La Passione, was written in 1768 and is scored for pairs of oboes, French horns in F, bassoon, strings and originally cembalo. This work, in the key of F minor, belongs clearly to the dramatic mood of Sturm und Drang, although not so called until the publication in 1777 of Klinger's play of that name. Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), a self-explanatory title, describes well enough the current literary mode of extravagant expression of emotions, partly reflected in some of the music of the period. Haydn's symphony follows the old pattern of the church sonata, opening with a slow movement. A degree of tension is generated in the following Allegro di molto, not least by the wide leaps and syncopation of the first violin in the opening of the movement, leading to a calmer shift to the relative major key. The Minuet, in which first and second violins double one another for much of the time, frames an F major Trio that makes use of the high range of the first horn. The final monothematic Presto brings to an end a symphony that enjoyed very considerable popularity in Haydn's life-time, the culmination of a particular development of the symphony and the expression of a depth of feeling that ensured serious consideration for the genre. A symphony of this kind was no mere diversion.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. With a series of recordings for Naxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.
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