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8.553363 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 20 (Nos. 77, 78, 79)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Symphonies Nos. 77, 78 and 79


Joseph Haydn was horn in the village of Rohrau in 1732. the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir- school of St Stephen's Cathedra1 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 f1fst appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Viva1di. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-KapelImeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, 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 emp1oyment, nomina11y at least, for the rest of his life.

On the completion of the magnificent pa1ace at Esterhaza in the Hungarian plains, under Prince Nicolaus, Haydn assumed command of an increased musica1 establishment, Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the pa1ace, which included the provision and direction of instrumenta1 music, opera and music for the theatre, as well as music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music ofa11 kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a howed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could a1so be plucked and one that the English scholar Dr Bumey thought to have its only proper use on a desert is1and, where a castaway might accompany himse1f.

Prince Nico1aus died in 1790 and Haydn found himse1f 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 are turn to duty with the Esterhazy 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. He died in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.

Haydn 1ived during the period of the eighteenth century that saw the deve1opment of insttumenta1 music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the c1assical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement form and complementary three or four movements, the basis now of much insttumenta1 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 the London impresario and violinist Salomon in the last decade of the century.

In 1782 it had been hoped that Haydn wou1d visit London to grace with his presence aseries of concerts that would include his new compositions. Willoughby Bertie, the Earl of Abingdon, who had been actively interested in the concert series offered by Johann Christian Bach and his colleague Car1 Friedrich Abe1, was keen to attract Haydn to England and went so far as to advertise his coming. As matters turned out, London had to wait a further ten years. Symphony No.77 in B flat major was written in 1782, the second of a group of three written with London performances in mind. In the event they were offered to the French pub1isher Boyer the following year. Scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and French horns, with strings, the symphony lacks, as Haydn pointed out to Boyer, concertante elements. It opens with a lively first subject, with a second entrusted to the strings and a single bassoon, soon to be joined by the flute. The repeated exposition is followed by a subtly contrapuntal central development, which brings an element of surprise that is outdone as the third section of recapitulation nears its end. The gentle Andante sostenuto, in F major, is introduced by muted strings, the first violin melody later doubled at the octave by the flute and subsequently taken up by the oboe. There is contrast of key and figuration in a central section and subtle imitation of the opening of the principal melody as it returns. The Menuetto, marked Allegro rather than Allegretto, has a Trio that gives due prominence to oboes and a bassoon, before the former is repeated. The symphony ends with a lively finale based on a single theme that provides the material for a varied second subject and for a central development marked by its cunning use of counterpoint, before it makes its final appearance in the concluding recapitulation.

Symphony No.78 in C minor, similarly scored, is the third of the set written for Haydn' s proposed visit to England. The choice of key invites an element of drama, as it did for Mozart in his Piano Concerto in C minor, although here it is modified by the major-key second subject. The first section, the exposition, is repeated, as now are the second and third sections, the development and recapitulation.

The beautifully crafted E flat major slow movement finds a place for gentler drama. It is followed by a C major Menuetto and a Trio that allows the winding melody played by oboe and the first vio1in, light1y accompanied, to be capped by the return of the Menuetto. The principal theme of the fina1e allows the whole orchestra to answer a question posed by the strings. The last movement contrasts a 1ively enough principal theme, in C minor, with a C rnajor secondary theme presented by the first violin and an oboe. What follows is marked by sudden silences, shifts of key and imitative treatment of the opening figure of the principal theme, before the triumphant coda.

The occasion of composition of Symphony No.79 in F major is not known, although like its predecessors it found pub1ishers in Vienna and abroad, one of a group of three such works. The symphony was written in 1783 or 1784 and is scored for similar forces. It opens with a first theme offered by the first violin, doubled an octave lower by a bassoon and followed by an operatic second subject. After the repeated exposition the central development abrupt1y changes key, leading to dramatic contrapuntal imitation and a varied recapitulation. There is great de1icacy in the B flat major Adagio cantabile, with a subt1e use of the woodwind, the flute now sometimes doubling the first violin but an octave below rather than above. Haydn moves forward to a final passage, a country dance marked Un poco allegro, again a surprise for any audience. The Menuetto, after this, restores a degree of so1idarity, making subt1e and de1icate use of the woodwind instruments. It frames a cheerful Trio in the same key of F major. The finale is now a true rondo, with a recurrent principal theme that serves as a framework for intervening episodes, the first in F minor and the second in B flat major, bringing to an end an elegant rococo masterpiece. 

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