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8.557093 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 28 (Nos. 37, 38, 39, 40)
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Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Symphonies Nos. 37–40

Franz 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 subsequently spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to profit from association with the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn’s first appointment was probably as early as 1758 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Vivaldi. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded after his death in 1762 by Prince Nicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had found much to complain about in the professionalism of his young and resented deputy, 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 Prince Nicolaus, 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 music for the theatre, as well as 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.

Prince Nicolaus died in 1790 and Haydn found himself able to accept an invitation to visit London. There he provided music for concert seasons 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 with them. 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.

Haydn lived during the period of the eighteenth century that saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement form and complementary two or three further movements, the former the basis now of much instrumental composition. The symphony may claim to have become the most important form of orchestral composition and owes a great deal, if not its precise paternity, to Haydn. He first attempted such composition some time before 1759 and wrote his last symphonies for London in the last decade of the century.

Symphony No. 37 in C major was seemingly the work of 1758, a date established on what is the earliest surviving manuscipt of any Haydn symphony. It presumably marks the start of his employment by Count von Morzin. The symphony was originally scored for pairs of oboes and horns, strings and continuo, this last generally for harpsichord, cello, double bass and bassoon. Another manuscript gives trumpets instead of horns and the necessary concomitant timpani, the version used here, the result of a revision by Haydn for a later occasion. The sonata-allegro form first movement has a central development that includes a false start to the recapitulation, with less attention consequently then paid to the first subject. The second movement of the symphony is a Minuet, framing a contrasted C minor Trio entrusted to the strings. The Andante, again for strings, is in C minor and leads to a final movement with marked dynamic contrasts.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 38, also in the festive key of C major, has added parts for trumpets and timpani, otherwise being scored for pairs of oboes and high horns in C alto, with strings and continuo. It has been dated to 1766-68. The sonata-allegro first movement starts in celebratory style, with a suitably contrasting second subject. The ascending arpeggio figure of the first theme is heard again in the central development, which passes through various minor keys before the return of the first subject in recapitulation. The F major second movement, marked Andante molto, is for strings, with the muted second violin providing an echo to the unmuted first. A Minuet follows, with the wind instruments, the oboes, as so often in these earlier works, largely doubling the first violin. The first oboe, however, enjoys some independence with the accompanying strings in the central F major Trio. The use of the solo oboe again in the last movement has led Robbins Landon, in his monumental study of Haydn, to suggest that the work was written for the virtuoso Vittorino Colombazzo, who was employed from September to December 1768 at Esterháza.

Symphony No. 39 in G minor is scored for the expected oboes, strings and continuo, but now with four horns, two in B flat alto and two in G. This scoring again reflects the immediately increased resources available to Haydn, with the employment of an additional player. The first subject of the opening movement is strangely interrupted by sudden dramatic silences, giving heightened tension. The E flat major slow movement, scored for strings and continuo, provides some respite from the mood implicit in the preceding movement. It is followed by a Minuet and a B flat major Trio that gives proper prominence to the oboes and high horns. The symphony ends with a return to the key and tension of the first movement, with a central development that starts with a passage for the violins alone, followed by distinct dynamic contrasts.

Symphony No. 40 in F major was written for performance at Eisenstadt, the then principal Esterházy residence, in 1763. It is scored for oboes, horns, strings and continuo, and opens with a cheerful Allegro, slowing before the final C major section of the exposition, with its wide leaps for the violins, typical of instrumental writing of the period. Another characteristic of the time is found in the gently moving B flat major slow movement, with writing entirely in two parts for violins and the lower string instruments. The wind instruments return for the Minuet and for a Trio that in one source is scored only for oboes, horns and bassoon. The symphony ends with a fugue, the subject announced with its accompanying countersubject. The climax of the movement comes over a long pedal-point, after which the subject is played by the orchestra in unison.

Keith Anderson

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