About this Recording
2.110343 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - OXFORD: A Musical Visit to the Town and University (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Visit to Oxford
With music by Joseph Haydn

 

CHAPTER 1

City Scenes

The university and town of Oxford are intermingled, shops jostling with historic colleges, town with gown. Scenes from Oxford start from above, with a glimpse of the Ratcliffe Camera, a rotunda built in the 18th century by James Gibbs, and the spires of the neighbouring All Souls College, founded in 1434 and housing only senior academics. The Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Christopher Wren on a classical Roman pattern and completed in 1669, is used for university ceremonies, and, on occasions, for concerts. Other sights are the High, the High Street that runs from the clock-tower of Carfax down to Magdalen Bridge, and the shorter parallel Broad Street. Cornmarket, a bustling shopping thoroughfare, leads back to Carfax, a crossing-point of four roads, and thence down St Aldate’s to Christ Church and Tom Tower, founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, taken, on the latter’s fall, by King Henry VIII and finally re-founded under its present name. Tom Tower was a later addition by Sir Christopher Wren, built to house the bell known as Great Tom.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 92 in G major, ‘Oxford’ – I. Adagio–Allegro spiritoso

Joseph Haydn spent the greater part of his life in the service of the Esterházy princes, at Eisenstadt and then, for over thirty years, at the great palace of Ezterháza, where he was responsible for a resident team of musicians. The death of his principal patron, Prince Nikolaus, in 1790 brought Haydn a measure of freedom and he was able to accept an invitation from Johann Peter Salomon to collaborate in a season of concerts in London in the first of two extended visits to England. In 1791 he was given the degree of doctor of music by the University of Oxford. The so-called ‘Oxford’ Symphony was played in the Sheldonian Theatre in the summer of 1791 at the second of two concerts arranged there to celebrate Haydn’s visit. Haydn had written the work in 1789 for the Paris Concert de la Loge Olympique, dedicating it, with two other symphonies, to Count d’Ogny, at the same time fulfilling a commission from Prince Krafft-Ernst of Oettingen-Wallerstein for three symphonies by sending him the same works. The ‘Oxford’ Symphony opens with a slow introduction, played at first only by the strings, which also open the Allegro with a theme derived from the first section. The work, scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, with strings, envisages performance by an orchestra of the size available at Eszterháza rather than the larger ensemble that would soon be available to Haydn in London.

CHAPTER 2

Museum of the History of Science • Bodleian Library

The Museum of the History of Science is in Broad Street, adjacent to the Sheldonian Theatre and the Bodleian Library. Originally established by Elias Ashmole in the late 17th century, the Museum houses a remarkable collection of terrestrial and celestial globes, with other devices of scientific interest. Next door is the Clarendon Building, designed by Hawksmoor in the early 18th century, and looking onto Broad Street are the once mouldering carved heads of the popularly designated Roman Emperors, in fact depicting the Sages of antiquity, now restored. Nearby is the Bodleian Library, founded by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in the 15th century, dispersed under King Edward VI and re-founded in 1602 by Sir Thomas Bodley. Duke Humphrey’s Library is shown, with its closely guarded and conserved older volumes.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 92 in G major, ‘Oxford’ – II. Adagio

The slow movement of the symphony unusually includes trumpets and drums in its scoring, instruments normally omitted in slow movements.

CHAPTER 3

New College

A short distance away is New College, founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, also the founder of the well known school, Winchester, in the city of that name. The Front Quad is bounded on the north side by the chapel, with its imaginative display of gargoyles. The antechapel has 14th-century stained glass and there is a separate bell-tower. The inner Garden Quad has a surviving part of the old Oxford city wall. The cloisters are a reminder of the original ecclesiatical intention of the college. The epithet ‘New’ distinguished the college, dedicated to St Mary, from the marginally earlier foundation, Oriel College, similarly dedicated.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 92 in G major, ‘Oxford’ – III. Menuetto: Allegretto

The Minuet is repeated, to frame a contrasting Trio that gives greater prominence to some of the wind instruments.

CHAPTER 4

Sheldonian Theatre

The camera moves from the Garden Quad of New College, and surviving parts of the Oxford city walls, to see graduands in Broad Street, preparing to enter the Sheldonian Theatre, where degree ceremonies take place, with those about to graduate dressed in the regulation ‘subfusc’, black and white, and wearing cap and gown. The ceiling of the theatre has an allegorical painting by Robert Streeter, completed in 1669.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 92 in G major, ‘Oxford’ – IV. Presto

The main theme of the final movement is entrusted to the first violins, accompanied by a cello octave ostinato. The symphony marks an end to a period of Haydn’s career as a composer, his last symphony conceived at Eszterháza and at the same time his last such work for the ancient régime in Paris, soon to disappear in the approaching Revolution.

CHAPTER 5

Christ Church College

Tom Tower, Wren’s grandiose addition to Christ Church, is over the main entrance, leading into Tom Quad, the Great Quadrangle, with its statue of Mercury, now replaced by a copy. The hall, with its portraits by some of the most famous painters working in England, dates from the period of the original foundation of the college in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, on the site of the former St Frideswide’s Priory. On Wolsey’s fall the college was taken by Henry VIII, but took its present name only in 1545. Unusually the college is also the site of the Cathedral, a Norman building surviving from the earlier Priory. The Cathedral has stained glass dating from the 14th century, in addition to more recent windows designed by William Morris and Burne-Jones. Another quadrangle, Peckwater Quad, built on the site of a former inn, from which it takes its name, dates from the early 18th century, and Canterbury Quad is on the site of a former college.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 94 in G major, ‘Surprise’ – I. Adagio–Vivace assai

Haydn’s Symphony No 94 is one of the first batch of six symphonies written for Johann Peter Salomon’s concert series at the Hanover Square Rooms in London. Haydn’s first visit to London began in 1791 and the present symphony was first performed in March 1791 by Salomon’s orchestra, a much larger ensemble than had been available to Haydn at Eszterháza for much of his career. The first movement opens with a slow introduction, followed by a gentle enough first subject and a double second subject.

CHAPTER 6

The River Thames

The Thames, known in Oxford as the Isis, and its tributary the River Cherwell, provide places for the enjoyment of both town and gown, the citizens of Oxford and the undergraduates of the University. The camera here approaches first the Cherwell, by way of Magdalen Bridge, at the end of the High Street. Below Magdalen Bridge punts can be hired, but more sporting activities, sculling and rowing, are often based on the various college boathouses that line the banks of the river.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 94 in G major, ‘Surprise’ – II. Andante

The slow movement provides the surprise from which the symphony takes its nickname. The tranquillity of the movement is shattered by a sudden burst of sound, before the music proceeds with variations of the original melody.

CHAPTER 7

Landscape

Oxford itself was built at the confluence of two rivers, territorial boundaries of two Romano-British tribes. The name of the city, like that of its rival Cambridge, on the River Cam, suggest the importance of water in the siting of these two cities and then of their famous universities. The principal river, the Thames, flows on through fields and woods until it reaches London, and then the sea.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 94 in G major, ‘Surprise’ – III. Menuet: Allegro molto

The Minuet makes its stately progress, framing a Trio in which melodic interest centres on a bassoon and the first violins.

CHAPTER 8

Landscape

The countryside near Oxford is rich in its fertile farmland, with meadows for grazing and arable fields. The city of Oxford, overcrowded after industrial developments and a centre for tourists, has largely been confined within its own limits, leaving the surrounding land for more traditional pursuits.

Music Haydn: Symphony No 94 in G major, ‘Surprise’ – IV. Finale: Allegro di molto

The final movement is launched by the strings with a cheerful first subject, followed by a contrasting second subject, worked out in classical tripartite sonata-form.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Symphony No 92 (with Nos 45 ‘Farewell’ and 88) [Naxos 8.572963]

Symphony No 94 (with Nos 100 ‘Military’ and 101 ‘The Clock’) [Naxos 8.572964]

Capella Istropolitana cond. Barry Wordsworth. Available only as part of the box set 8.501060.


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