About this Recording
8.554109 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 16 (Nos. 74, 75, 76)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 74 in E flat major
Symphony No. 75 in D major
Symphony No. 76 in E 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 of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, under the new Prince, a complex of buildings emulating the palace of Versailles, constructed 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, only of use, Dr. Burney remarked, to a solitary castaway on a desert island.

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.

Symphony No. 74 in E flat major has been conjecturally dated to 1780. English publication rights were received on 22nd August 1781 by the publisher and violin-maker William Forster, the first such arrangement, brought about through the agency of General Sir Charles Jerningham, British ambassador in Vienna. Scored for a flute, with pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, with the necessary strings, the first movement, marked Vivace assai, calls the immediate attention of the audience with the strong chords for the whole orchestra, answered by a gentler string response, ornamented on repetition. The strings offer a second subject, with violins at first in octaves, and lower strings in octaves with the double bass. The central development has natural recourse at first to the opening subject, as new keys are explored, before the inevitable recapitulation. Muted first violins and cellos share the first twenty bars of the B flat major Adagio cantabile, the latter instruments providing a moving accompaniment to the melody of the former. The theme is then offered in a number of variations, continuing until the counterpoint of second and first violins, as the movement comes to an end. The Minuet is characterized by the Lombard accented short-long rhythm, contrasted with a trio in which flute and oboes are silent, while one of the bassoons doubles the first violin. The strings open the final Allegro assai, the violins at first sharing the melody and then providing, after a pause, an ornamental and rapid accompaniment to the lower strings, as they take up the theme. Another pause is followed by a subsidiary theme, in B flat major, after which the material is developed, to return in a concluding section.

Symphony No. 75 in D major dates from a similar period. It seems finally to have been scored for flute, two oboes, bassoon, two horns and strings, with an added pair of trumpets and drums, these last naturally omitted from the slow movement. The symphony opens with a solemn introduction of marked dynamic contrast, after which the strings burst into activity with a Presto sonata-form movement. The transition from first to second subject breaks into a triplet rhythm, before the first violin leads the way down to the new material. The first theme is varied in the opening of the central development, of which it forms the principal substance, before the emphatic return of the first theme in its original key. Muted strings propose the theme of the second Poco adagio movement, music that, Haydn noted in his diary of a later visit to London, caused a clergyman to fall into a melancholy, hearing in it a premonition of his death, which took place shortly afterwards. The G major movement is in the form of a theme and four variations, the first embellished by the first violin, the second of greater dynamic contrasts, the third for solo string instruments, accompanied by the plucked notes of the other strings, and the fourth with a rapid and continuing second violin accompaniment. The Minuet performs its function in restoring the original key and a more out-going mood, contrasted with a Trio in which Haydn couples solo violin and flute in the gently accompanied melody. The final rondo offers a varied series of episode, framed by the cheerful principal theme.

Symphony No. 76 in E flat major belongs to a group of symphonies written to meet the requirements of a proposed visit to England, an event to which Dr Burney, for one, was looking forward, but which took place only ten years later. The first of the three symphonies intended for this foreign audience, Symphony No. 76, is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, and strings and starts with an emphatic enough establishment of the key in its first subject, followed in due course by a secondary theme, shared at first by oboes and violins. The central development continues, at first, a figure from the close of the exposition, before taking the principal theme into new keys and the return of the material of the opening, still marked by the repeated note accompaniment of the lower strings. The slow movement offers two themes, the first more lyrical, the second more ominous. Both these elements are twice varied in turn, with the second giving rise to a distinct feeling of drama. Once again the Minuet returns to the normal world, contrasted with a Trio in which Haydn again shows his skill in varying instrumentation. Here first violin, flute and bassoon share the melody, with considerable support from the two French horns. It is the flute that initially shares with the first violin the principal theme of the last movement, a tripartite sonata-form movement, a scheme within the limits of which Haydn continues to provide an infinite variety.

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