About this Recording
8.550768 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 11 (Nos. 53, 86, 87)
English 

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)

Symphony No.53 in D Major, "L'imperiale"
Symphony No.87 in A Major
Symphony No.86 in D Major

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 under the new Prince of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, built on the site of a former hunting-lodge set on the Hungarian plains, 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.

Haydn wrote his Symphony No.53 in D major, popularly known as L'imperiale presumably because of its stately opening bars or perhaps a reflection of the favour of the Empress, at some time between 1777 and 1779. At Esterháza there had been a marked increase in theatrical activity, with Italian opera, German marionette operas and a German theatre troupe. Haydn was responsible for the composition of some operas and incidental music as well as for performances, duties that distracted him to some extent from the composition of purely instrumental music and certainly from the composition of symphonies, for which he now had less time. Symphony No.53 seems to have been a composite work and in spite of its very wide popularity has survived in a variety of versions, with one of the alternative final movements originally an Overture showing inconsistency in scoring with the rest of the symphony.

The first movement of the symphony, scored for flute, two oboes, bassoon, two French horns, timpani and strings, opens with a united statement of the descending notes of the D major arpeggio, gently answered by the strings. The first subject of the following Vivace again opens with the notes of the triad, prefigured in a curiously scored accompaniment for cellos and French horn, figuration which has an important part to play in the second subject and in the central development section of the movement. The strings are entrusted with the Andante double theme, the first part in A major, followed by an A minor derivative, both then re-appearing in a series of variations. The opening melody, otherwise hitherto unidentified, may owe something to French folk-song. Whatever its origin, it proved immediately popular, a fact to which the large number of contemporary arrangements of the theme bear witness. The original key of D major is restored in the Minuet and the contrasting Trio, the latter scored only for flute and strings. The surviving Esterházy orchestral parts include a final movement with the relatively unusual title Capriccio and presumably written expressly for this symphony. The most viable alternative, found in a number of other sources, is what was clearly an Overture, ending in the wrong key and therefore needing slight revision in its closing bars. The Capriccio, marked Moderato, includes an intervening episode in D minor before the major key is restored with the opening thematic material. The borrowed D major Overture-Finale, marked Presto, provides a viable alternative, although it is scored for two bassoons rather than the single bassoon used in the preceding movements. French printed sources offer a third possible Finale, here omitting timpani and flute. The second of these has been recorded on the present occasion.

The Paris Symphonies were commissioned by the young Comte d'Ogny, Claude-François-Marie Rigoley, for the Concert de la Loge olympique. The orchestra for which Haydn was writing was a large one, with forty violins, as opposed to the mere eleven available at Esterháza. The new symphonies were welcomed enthusiastically by audiences who already held Haydn in the highest esteem. Symphony No.87 in A major was intended by Haydn as the first of the Paris Symphonies, although later misplaced when Artaria published these works in Vienna. The symphony is scored without trumpets and drums and has no slow introduction, starting with a strong theme based on the tonic triad, preceded by a figure similar to that which was to assume importance in the Finale of Symphony No.86. A repeated note by the second violins introduces the second subject. The same thematic material, at first transformed into A minor, begins the central development. The delicately scored D major slow movement makes skilful and telling use of the woodwind instruments. It leads to a striking Minuet framing a Trio in which a solo oboe plays a principal part. The symphony ends with a monothematic Finale, which, as it proceeds, finds a place for contrapuntal use of its theme.

Haydn's Symphony No.86 in D major is the fifth of the Paris set. It is scored for flute, with pairs of oboes, bassoons, French horns, trumpets and timpani, with the usual strings. The first movement opens with a slow introduction, the source of much that appears later, leading to an Allegro spiritoso that opens with an unexpected harmony that appears when the same material provides a second subject. The G major slow movement has the title Capriccio, suggesting a free rondo form, in which the main theme re-appears between other thematic material. Trumpets and drums, absent from the Capriccio, return for the Minuet, but are not used in the contrasting Trio with its running string part, doubled by woodwind instruments. The last movement starts with a single violin note repeated five times, the beginning of the principal theme. A similar figure introduces the secondary theme, derived from it, and appears again in the central development section. before ushering in the final recapitulation and later reinforcing the conclusion.

Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia
The Hungarian Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia was formed in1992 from members of the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra by Ibolya Tóth, of the Hungarian Phoenix Studio. The Sinfonia has among its musicians the principal wind-players of the Symphony Orchestra, many of whom have already recorded concertos for Naxos. The conductor of the Sinfonia is the flautist Béla Drahos.

Béla Drahos
Béla Drahos was born in Kaposvar in South-West Hungary in 1955 and entered the Györ Conservatory in 1969, winning first prize in the Concertino Prague '71 International Flute Competition and a year later in the flute competition staged by Hungarian Television. Study at the Liszt Academy in Budapest led to graduation with distinction in 1978, after a further award in Prague and in 1979 at the Bratislava Interpodium, and further distinction, including the Hungarian Liszt Prize in 1985, selection as Artist of the Year in Hungary in 1986 and the Bartók-Pásztory Prize in 1988. Béla Drahos is the leader and founding member of the Hungarian Radio Wind Quintet and since 1976 has served as Principal Flautist of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. His concert career has included performances throughout Europe and as far afield as New Zealand. He has more recently embarked on a parallel career as a conductor, and in the summer of 1993 was appointed conductor of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra.


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