About this Recording
8.554762 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 22 (Nos. 13, 36 / Sinfonia Concertante)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Symphony No. 13 in D major • Symphony No. 36 in E flat major

Sinfonia Concertante in B 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 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 probably in 1758 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 Esterházy, 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 Esterháza 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 Esterházy 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.

The two symphonies here included are both relatively early works. The Symphony No. 13 in D major has a precise date, 1763, one of three symphonies written in that year. It was in August that two new horn-players were added to the complement of musicians at Eisenstadt and Haydn was at once able to make use of their abilities in scoring the new symphony for four horns, together with a flute, two oboes, a bassoon, timpani and strings. The principal theme of the first movement has a festive air about it and there is the due modulation to the dominant key of A major before the end of the repeated exposition, although there is no formal second subject. The horns have their moment in the recapitulation that follows the short central development section. The G major slow movement is scored for strings only and is in the form of an embellished aria for solo cello, played at Eisenstadt by the cellist Joseph Weigl. The key of D major returns, with the wind instruments, for the following Menuet, with a contrasting G major Trio for solo flute and strings. The opening of the Finale may seem familiar in its use of a motif derived from plainchant that was to serve Mozart in the last moven1ent of his Jupiter Symphony and elsewhere. The motif appears throughout the movement but only as it nears its end does it return in fugal overlapping entries in the strings, the stretto of traditional counterpoint.

Symphony No. 36 in E flat major is undated but in style is clearly an early work, written either before Haydn's appointment to Eisenstadt or in his first years of employment there. It is scored for pairs of oboes and horns and strings, with the usual possibility of a bassoon doubling the bass line. The energetic first subject of the opening movement leads to a secondary theme that starts, at least, in a minor key. The central section of the movement starts with the principal subject before moving into a dramatic exploration of remoter keys, followed by the return of the earlier thematic material in recapitulation. The B flat major slow movement is again scored for strings only, now with a solo violin and a solo cello. Although very much of its period, the structure is broadly that of the Baroque instrumental movement, with a recurrent phrase, a ritornello, used to punctuate solo passages. A sprightly Menuetto frames a B flat major Trio of dynamic contrasts, scored principally for strings, with brief doubling from the oboes. The last movement has a sinister secondary theme starting in the dominant minor key. The principal theme returns in the central section, expanded by the use of the Baroque device of sequence, before the expected recapitulation of the material in a movement in which both halves are repeated.

Haydn reached England for his first visit to the country on 1st January 1791 and made his way back to Vienna in the summer of the following year, having agreed with Salomon on a further visit. It was during the second season, at a concert on 9th March 1792 at the Hanover Square Rooms, that the Sinfonia Concertante was first heard, a work in currently popular form. Haydn's pupil Ignace Joseph Pleyel had been engaged by William Cramer to lead a rival series of concerts in London, also at the Hanover Square Rooms, and provided works of this kind. This seemingly suggested to Salomon that he might ask Haydn to write something of the same kind. Haydn's New Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, Oboe and Bassoon was played by the violinist Salomon himself, with the cellist Menel, the oboist Harrington and the bassoonist Holmes, and described in the Morning Herald as 'profound, airy, affecting and original' on this occasion and also a week later, when it was repeated. A full account of these concerts is, of course, included in the monumental work on Haydn by H.C. Robbins Landon.

The soloists appear first in the opening orchestral exposition of the initial Allegro, before their first formal entry, with the solo instruments treated in pairs. Other keys are duly explored in the central development, before the return of the principal theme with the solo violin. There is an effective final cadenza for all four instruments before the movement comes to an end. Solo violin and bassoon start the Andante, accompanied by the strings and followed by the solo oboe and cello. The solo group holds the attention throughout the movement, the relatively intimate mood broken by the brusque opening of the last movement, its initial course unexpectedly broken by passages of recitative for the solo violin. There is technically demanding writing, particularly for the solo violin, and a brief passage of recitative that might even have suggested something to Beethoven, and a short, improvised cadenza, before the final return of the main theme.

Keith Anderson

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