About this Recording
8.550780 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 14 (Nos. 97, 98)
English 

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.97 in C Major
Symphony No.98 in B Flat 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 landed in England for the first time on New Year's Day 1791, shortly afterwards reaching London, where he lodged with the violinist-impresario Johann Peter Salomon, who had arranged the visit. The Salomon concert season began eventually on 11th March in the Hanover Square Rooms, where Johann Christian Bach and his colleague Carl Friedrich Abel had earlier established a series of subscription concerts. Salomon's orchestra at this time consisted of some forty highly competent performers and it was for them that Haydn wrote the first of his Salomon or London Symphonies. In June the season came to an end and in July Haydn travelled to Oxford, where he took part in a series of concerts and received the degree of Doctor of Music. Salomon's 1792 season in Hanover Square began in February.

Symphony No.97 was apparently first performed at an additional benefit concert for Haydn, given on 3rd May. The symphony was repeated at the tenth concert of the Salomon series the following evening. Scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, and directed in these first performances by the composer at the piano, the work opens with a slow introduction, using melodic material closely related to the ending of the exposition and to the coda that concludes the movement. The Vivace opens triumphantly with a fanfare figure shared by the whole orchestra, leading to a lilting second subject. The central development brings back the triadic first subject, at first in E flat, then in D major, to be developed in interplay between the instruments. The F major slow movement is introduced by the strings, the principal theme punctuated by chords from woodwind and horns. The theme is then varied, with the first violins launching into triplets, to be followed by an F minor version of the material. The next variation is to be played al ponticello, near the bridge of the violins, firsts now doubled by seconds in semiquavers. A coda follows. The Minuet makes use of dynamic contrasts and frames a Trio that takes the first violins into the heights. There are structural surprises in the Finale, where the first subject unexpectedly contains a middle section in the dominant, while the second subject is first heard in the tonic, the key in which the central development opens. There are further surprises as the movement takes its course.

Symphony No.98 in B flat major has been introduced to the London public two months earlier at the third Salomon concert, given at the Hanover Square Rooms on 2nd March. Following the general practice in these concerts, the new symphony opened the second part of the programme, which was as varied as ever, including songs, symphonies, concertos for cello and for violin, as well as a clarinet quartet. The symphony differs in scoring from Symphony No. 97 by the omission of one of the two flutes and in its unusual requirement of B flat trumpets. Again there is a slow introduction, beginning in B flat minor, its slowly ascending triad recalled in the opening of the Allegro. The same theme is heard in the dominant before the second subject proper, entrusted to the oboe, its long, sustained notes accompanied by repeated quavers in violins and violas. The opening figure of the Allegro provides material for the start of the central development, duly to re-appear to start the recapitulation and to dominate the final coda. The Adagio is in F major, its principal theme a hymn that suggests the anthem "God save the King". The material is movingly developed and the recapitulation opens with the accompaniment of a solo cello. Trumpets and drums, omitted from the slow movement, return in the forthright Minuet, remaining silent with the horns in the Trio, with its doubling of first violins and bassoon. The Finale allows the first violins to state the principal theme, echoed by a solo oboe. The development calls for a solo violin, in a contrast of texture, while the extended coda slows the main theme, only to rush onward in notes of shorter value, its final bars allowing Haydn, at the keyboard, to add further modest embellishments in a series of accompanying arpeggios.

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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