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8.554405 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 23 (Nos. 27, 28, 31)

Joseph Haydn (1732 -1809)

Joseph Haydn (1732 -1809)

Symphony No.27 in G major / Symphony No.28 in A major

Symphony No.31 in D major ("Hornsignal")


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 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 first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Vivaldi. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister 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 employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.


On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza in the Hungarian plains under Prince Nicolaus, 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 music for the theatre, as well as 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.


Prince Nicolaus died in 1790 and Haydn found himself 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 a return 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 with them. 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 lived during the period of the eighteenth century that saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement form and complementary three or four movements, the basis now of much instrumental 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 London in the last decade of the century.


Haydn's Symphony No.27 in G major has been definitively dated by H.C.Robbins Landon, in his monumental study of the composer, to about 1760, while the composer was in the service of Count Morzin. The three-movement symphony, originally scored for oboes, strings and continuo, with French horns added later, has something of Mannheim about it in its opening ascending thematic figure, the so-called rocket favoured by the famous Mannheim orchestra. A gentler secondary theme is entrusted to the strings, before the exposition is repeated. This material forms the basis of the symphonic development and the subsequent recapitulation, again repeated. The C major second movement is scored for muted violins, with a plucked lower string accompaniment, and is in the form of a pastoral Siciliano. The final Presto provides a lively conclusion, with a short contrasting passage at its heart.


By 1765, the date of his Symphony No.28 in A major, Haydn was firmly established as a member of the Esterhazy musical establishment, still based at Eisenstadt and seemingly enjoying a good relationship with his new patron, Prince Nicolaus, who was urging the composition, in particular, of new works for the baryton. Scored for the usual pairs of oboes and French horns, with strings and continuo, the symphony starts with some metrical ambiguity, its triple metre at first a seeming 6/8. The principal theme is used again in the central development, after the first section of the movement has been repeated, restored to its proper key in the closing recapitulation in writing that has given new prominence to the wind instruments. These last are excluded from the D major slow movement, again for muted violins with the lower strings. Here the opening phrase is answered by the violins in a higher register, before a curiously extended rhythmic figure in what follows. The Minuet starts with bariolage, the alternation of the same note on adjacent strings of the violins, at first heard with one fingered note and an open string and later with the necessary stretch of the left hand to allow two fingered notes in alternation. The A minor Trio is developed from a short melodic figure and is inconclusive in that it ends on the middle note of the A minor chord. The symphony ends with a cheerful movement in 6/8, the metre of the gigue. The unusual features in the work have led Robbins Landon to conjecture that it may have been derived from incidental music for a play presented at Eisenstadt, since Haydn is known to have adapted music in this way on other occasions.


Symphony No.31 in D major, known as the Hornsignal, also dated to 1765, is unusual in its scoring, calling for a solo flute, a pair of oboes, four horns and strings with a solo violin, solo cello and solo double bass, in addition to the expected continuo The first movement opens with the horn signal that gives the work its popular name and the secondary material of the repeated exposition allows the flute three rapidly ascending scales. The horn signal returns to start the development and the solo flute is again allowed its scales. Unexpectedly the recapitulation begins in D minor, followed by the horns and the second part of the first subject. The full horn signal is left until the final bars. The G major slow movement is in the gentle mood of a Siciliana and calls for a solo violin, accompanied by plucked strings, before the entry of the second pair of horns, now in G, soon to be followed, after another solo violin passage, by the first pair of horns, instruments in D. The solo violin moves into the height of its range, answered by a solo cello, and the first section, to be repeated, ends quietly. The same solo instruments are deployed in the repeated second half of the movement, again with a hushed conclusion that allows the solo cello its final word. The whole orchestra is used in the following Minuet, with a Trio that makes telling use of the pair of oboes. The last movement is a theme and variations, the former announced by the strings, which accompany what follows Oboes and a pair of horns dominate the first variation, with the second given to the solo cello, the third to the flute and the demanding fourth to the four horns. The solo violin provides a fifth version of the material, with a sixth for the whole ensemble and a seventh for strings with a double bass solo. A D minor link then leads to a final Presto that ends with a final horn signal of over-all unity.


Keith Anderson




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