About this Recording
8.550723 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 8 (Nos. 23, 24, 61)

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)

Symphony No.24 in D Major
Symphony No.23 in G Major
Symphony No.61 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 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 Esteráhza and at Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo, at least with the relatively smaller number of string players available.

Symphonies Nos. 23 and 24 were written in 1764 for performance before Prince Nikolaus at Eisenstadt, where the Esteráhzy palace boasted a reception hall that could have held some four hundred people, although such numbers would not have been present at w hat was a purely domestic entertainment for the Prince, members of his family and entourage, and his guests. These symphonies form part of a group of eight symphonies written in 1764 and 1765. Symphony No.23 in G major opens with a triple time Allegro, a lively and cheerful movement. It is followed by a slow movement scored for strings. To this the use of suspensions adds an element of poignancy, as the momentary discords are resolved. The Menuet is a canon between upper and lower parts, with a Trio that has motivic connections with the Menuet that frames it. The last movement makes use of dynamic contrasts, ending with a reduction of volume, instead of the expected emphatic conclusion.

In Symphony No.24 in D major Haydn shows once more his ability to produce, even at this early stage of his career as a composer, music of infinite variety and invention, within existing formal limitations. The opening Allegro makes initial use of the wind and string timbres available in a sonata-allegro movement that has its moments of stronger feeling in the central development. The slow movement makes use of the flute in apart apparently written for the Esterházy flautist Franz Sigl, for whom Haydn also wrote a flute concerto, now lost. Here he exploits the abilities of the player, allowing him a brief cadenza. The following Menuet is repeated after a Trio in which the flute again has apart to play. The two oboes of the orchestra return for a final movement of dramatic contrasts.

Symphony No.61 in D major belongs to a slightly later period of Haydn's life. It was written in 1776, at a time when Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's interests in theatre and opera predominated, with visiting theatre-troupes working at Esterháza and a marionette theatre established there in 1773. Haydn provided music for operas on special occasions, but the seasonal presence of actors and the requirements of the marionette theatre involved the provision of incidental music for a variety of German plays, including translations of Shakespeare. Although the material Symphony No.61 cannot be directly associated with any of the plays known to have been performed at Esterházy, it belongs to a group of symphonies that do make use of incidental music originally intended to accompany drama. These include Symphony No.60, Il distratto, using music for Jean François Regnard's play Le distrait and Symphony No.63, La Roxelane, with music composed for Favart's Les trois sultanes. The vigorous opening Vivace of Symphony No.61 is followed by a moving Adagio and a cheerful Menuet, with the customary repetition after a contrasting Trio. There is a particularly theatrical final movement that seems to tell its own story.

Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Manchester has established itself as one of England's finest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of the concert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performs both in concert and on disc without a conductor. Their repertoire ranges from the baroque era to music of our time, and they have gained a reputation for imaginative programme planning. 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.

Nicholas Ward
Nicholas Ward was born in Manchester in 1952, the son of parents who had met as members of the Hallé Orchestra. In consequence music played an important part in his life from childhood, allowing him, after less successful attempts as a pianist, to learn the violin and, at the age of twelve, to form his own string quartet. This last continued for some five years, until he entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied with Yossi Zivoni and later, in Brussels, with André Gertler. In 1977 Nicholas Ward moved to London, where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic, when the orchestra worked under Antal Dorati as its Principal Conductor. He became co-leader of the City of London Sinfonia in 1984, a position followed by appointment as leader of the Northern Chamber Orchestra, of which he became Music Director two years later, directing from the violin. In this form the orchestra has won high regard for its work both in the concert hall and the broadcasting studio.

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