About this Recording
8.554110 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 18 (Nos. 80, 81, 99)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 80 in D Minor
Symphony No. 81 in G Major
Symphony No. 99 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, under the new Prince, of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, built 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.

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.

Haydn occupies a position of great importance in the development of the classical symphony, although attributions of paternity suggest a far too simple account of the matter. His career spanned the period during which the form developed as the principal orchestral form and he himself certainly played a major part in this process, from his first symphony some time before 1759 to his final series of symphonies written for the greater resources of London in the 1790s. These 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, with the relatively small number of string players then employed.

Symphony No. 80 in D minor was written in 1783 or 1784, one of a group of three symphonies that includes No. 79 and No. 81. These were published in Vienna, Paris and London, and by the Netherlands-German firm of Hummel, based in Berlin and Amsterdam, testimony to the wide popularity that Haydn's work now enjoyed abroad. Symphony No. 80 is scored for flute, with pairs of oboes and bassoons, two horns in D and in high B flat, and strings. It opens in a dramatic D minor to which the lilting F major second subject provides a marked contrast, continued in the central development, with the return of the second subject in recapitulation ensuring a D major ending for the movement. The B flat major slow movement, with its high B flat horns, moves forward to a subsidiary passage for flute and first violins, accompanied by an arpeggio figure from the second violins and violas, with a fuller secondary theme, material that is further developed, before its recapitulation. The D minor Menuetto has a contrasting D major Trio with a melody in which oboe, horn and first violin join. The last movement is characterized by the urgent syncopation that marks the principal theme. The movement is in D major, with excursions into D minor and other keys in the central development section, making the general mood of the symphony, in spite of its opening, cheerful, rather than an expression of storm or stress.

The third symphony of the group, the Symphony No. 81 in G major, similarly scored, with horns in G and in D, opens with a repeated pedal-note from the cellos, over which the first violins propose the principal theme. It is to these that the second subject is entrusted, over a bass in which strings are joined by a bassoon. The material is varied in development, as it is in recapitulation, when the first subject returns over what turns into a sustained dominant pedal-note from the lower strings. The D major slow movement offers a theme and variations, the second of which is in D minor, with a third using rapider triple rhythms and a final version accompanied by plucked strings. The original key is restored for the Menuetto, with a bassoon sharing the first part of the Trio melody with the first violin and finally leading to the key of G minor, before the return of the Menuetto itself. The last movement has varied rhythms in its secondary thematic material, the whole couched in the now established tripartite form, with a central development of dramatic variety and a final recapitulation.

Haydn's last six symphonies were written for his second visit to London, the earlier works completed before he reached England in early February 1794. The first of these, the Symphony No. 99 in E flat major, had been completed the previous year in Vienna and was first performed in London at a Hanover Square concert presented by Johann Peter Salomon on 10th February in a programme that included the usual mixture of vocal and instrumental music, with a new concerto written and played by the famous violinist Viotti and a new piano concerto by Dussek. Salomon had mustered an orchestra advertised as employing some sixty musicians, including two clarinettists, their instruments in B flat and in C, now appearing for the first time in a Haydn symphony. Otherwise the work is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns in E flat and in G, trumpets in E flat and in C, timpani and strings. There is a slow introduction to the first movement, leading to a Vivace assai, in which the principal theme is introduced by the first violins, to be taken up by the wind instruments, with a second theme that also makes melodic use of the clarinet. Haydn here makes fuller use of the wind instruments and later in the work treats them with a greater degree of independence. The G major slow movement provides an immediate example of this, when flute, oboes and bassoon echo the end of the first string phrase and are then allowed to develop this material on their own. The later return of the first theme finds a place for contrapuntal imitation and there are elements of drama as the movement draws to a close. The key of E flat major returns for the Menuet, with its dynamic contrasts, while the Trio, scored for oboes, clarinets, bassoons and strings, shifts to G major. The last movement is in sonata-rondo form, with two related subjects, the second allowing wind instruments their own moments of relative exposure, with a development that makes contrapuntal use of elements of the thematic material and a recapitulation that brings its own surprises.

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